Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Coming Home: Why I Have No Choice but to Be Orthodox

I started writing this story of my journey to Orthodoxy a while back. I say "started," because my journey is far from over, so I never expected it to remain static. I thought it would be worth sharing here. It's kind of long, so I'll post it in sections. Here's the introduction:

I have a general conviction about telling stories, that there is no universally right way to tell them, and that this is generally a good thing. Particularly in the case of telling one’s own story, the process is much like memory itself—ever-changing, sometimes more lucid than others, and usually influenced by present circumstances. This assessment should not be taken as an excuse for blatant dishonesty, but only an apologetic for inconsistency. I experienced my past as it came to me, and I experience my recollection as it comes back. I do not stay the same, and neither do my memories. All I can promise is that I will tell them in the most sincere way possible.

On one hand, this conviction leads me to eschew writing my stories. Better to retell my past as I understand it at any point in time, whenever the need arises. Writing it all down would impose consistency that does not really exist. It would give the impression of authority, simply by being static. On the other hand, to codify one version of my story, if understood correctly, can usefully preserve what I was thinking at the time that I wrote. It can reflect an earlier me—not as early as the me that went through the events in question, but earlier at least than some later me that might need a reminder of what once was.

There is also a utilitarian concern, in that writing saves me the time and trouble of articulating over and over again the same answer to the same question. Of course, there will inevitably be follow-up questions, and the detachment of referring an inquirer to some written text tends to suppress the voicing of new concerns. A text that seemingly answers the major issues might appear to be sufficient—so much so, that lesser questions are left unasked. If no real dialog was necessary to cover the bulk of the answer, why bother starting one after the fact? Being a firm believer in the importance of dialog, I want to counteract this impulse right now. If I have referred you to this text for an answer to your question (or, for that matter, if you have simply stumbled across it somehow, and I happen to be accessible), please understand that I want your feedback. I want this text to be a starting point for discussion, not the end of it. So by all means, read on. But think about what you read. Critique it. Question it. And when you have finished reading, let’s share our thoughts and see where they take us.

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