Thursday, April 16, 2009

What ever happened to the via media?

More washing of walls today along with a trip or two to Salvation Army and a general attempt to bring some sort of order to the loose ends of stuff scattered around the place. Not to mention the search for the blank Wells Fargo checks I've misplaced --- absent mindedly stuck in a box I suppose. But which one?

I wouldn't need to wash walls --- since I've lived here more than 10 years all the walls will be repainted once I'm gone and the carpet most likely ripped out and replaced, too. But it makes me feel efficient to do it and besides I like to sit here in the middle of the office looking around at nice cream-colored surfaces where it's possible to see only the faintest outlines of a couple of the oldest family pictures with vintage backings that left seemingly indelible stains.

The route I've adopted to maintenance of sanity during this process is to take a break every 45 minutes or so and spend some quality time in the blogosphere. One thing I'm interested in is how much anger there seems to be out there on the Internet, some of it expressed in blogs, more of it in the sniping/debate, whichever you want to call it, that goes on in online forums or in the "comments" section of blog or blog-type entries. It's seems sometimes that once online we take leave of our senses.


Wandering around, I happened onto this little essay by Jonah Lehrer that by extension suggests that our brains are not moving as fast as our technology and that this may be part of the problem. In other words, our brains are designed to spur bursts of sometimes incredible energy in times of crisis, the take-flight-or-fight factor. Few of us are in real physical danger these days (being chased up a tree by a grizzly bear for example), so that instinct operates in less desirable ways: Frantic worry in the middle of the night about something that will seem minor at first light of day, extreme reaction while commenting on a blog entry to a perceived threat to our precious opinion, you get the idea.

There are some excellent examples to back that theory in the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere these days, some recent ones involving my bishop, Alan Scarfe, of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa. I like and respect Bishop Scarfe --- he received me into the Episcopal Church from the Lutheran Church. He's a good guy doing his best I think to walk the via media (the middle way) between conservatives (probably a minority) and liberals (probably a majority) in the diocese because his job is to serve us all.

His statement regarding the recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage reflected that --- he congratulated the LGBT segment of his flock on the new privilege, talked a little about how the case arguments and ruling had affected his own long-held view that civil unions (rather than marriage) were appropriate, pointed out that canon law of the Episcopal church still does not allow its priests to perform gay marriages (although belssings of unions formal or informal are allowable in the diocese) and asked, since we are not of one mind on the issue, that everyone focus on being kind to one another while continuing the debate. A very Iowa statement, in other words.

Not received too kindly in the Angloepiscopalian blogosphere, however, and if you believed everything you read there you'd think everyone was mad at him. From the right, "he's a heretic engaging in episcobabble." From the left, "he's a traitor engaging in episcobabble." The truth, of course, is that he's neither, merely someone doing his best to be a faithful shepherd to the whole flock --- something that has to be among the most daunting tasks facing anyone among the clergy.


Ed Abbey said...

I've always felt that those who went off at the mouth in a blog comment section are probably like that in real life. Our nature, chemistry, ability to handle these bursts of energy or whatever you call it eventually come through even on here. That is why I would probably engage in debates with any of my current blog readers in person because they all debate calmly and rationally and I feel would be likely to do so in person.

Frank D. Myers said...

I think you're right so far as built-in tendencies are concerned. Perhaps it's the instant nature of the Internet along with the knowledge you'll probably never see the person you're lambasting face to face that discourages caution (or good manners). Even with an old-fashioned letter you had the time involved in addressing, stamping and getting it to the box to ask yourself if you really wanted to say/write that. Face to face, there's always the possibility someone will smack you in the mouth.