Monday, September 8, 2008

The Readers Speak: Against Controversy

And they like the controversy, despite what Abba Matoes said. It is common to all blogs, and all media, for that matter. Controversy gets readers. Looking back over my analytics data, the most hits have come from posts about converts to Orthodoxy, LCMS problems, and whenever Pr. Weedon links to me (no controversy there--his blog is just extremely popular).

But why is controversy popular? There is the element of schadenfreude, to be sure. This ought to give us great caution, for one day it may be us on the headlines and disgraced in whatever manner. There is what Walker Percy observed in Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book (as I remember it): controversy, tragedy, catastrophe and the like charm us because we hate ourselves and our lives. We crave something, anything that will break the monotony of existence, the dullness of our souls and minds, the daily grind that crushes us.

That we are vapid and suffer ennui is undeniable. But controversy and wickedness and catastrophe do not truly wake us from the accidia and vapidity of our lives. It really only feeds it, nourishes it. True life, a true waking from spiritual slumber can only come through the life of Christ and living by the Spirit. True wakefulness, true engagement with the world, a genuine break of monotony are found in the riches of the inner life. The kingdom of heaven is within us.

Of course, our blockbuster-loving, high octane cravings for entertainment rail against such statements. How could prayer and fasting, service and humility, love and meekness possibly give us satisfaction? How can peace excite us an awaken us from the doldrums of the commute, the cubicle, the field and the factory?

They cannot as long as we feed ourselves a constant stream of decadence and mayhem, films of destruction and hilarity, roaring crowds and large screens, stimulation and stimulation.

Are these that satisfying, after all?


  1. The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

    I've never really paid attention to hits as far as rating controversy, though you are right, we gravitate to it like a moth to a flame.

    I found it highly amusing that while I blog about controversy fairly often, the most comments I ever got was when I was trying to decide whether or not to get a reclining couch that I thought was agonizingly ugly, but one of the most comfortable things I'd ever parked my derriere in.

  2. Mike Baker said...

    Controversy does not satisfy. Like any addiction, the satisfaction that comes from engaging in controversy is fleeting. We never grow tired of talking about the hot topic du jour. Human nature gravitates to the things of the world and has little interest in the things of God.

    Ultimately, idle talk solves very little when compared with the actual work that comes with fixing problems and issues. But the idle talk is always so much more fun.

    I have noticed that people would rather talk about problems than fix them because:

    1. They are too lazy to do the work to try to fix or minimize it.

    2. They like to identify problems, but are not interested in finding solutions.

    3. They like to pontificate without having their theories tested by the cold mistress that is reality.

    4. People like to stroke their own egos by being right and pointing out the faults of other people/groups.

    5. They lack the courage to say these things to the face of the people who need to hear it. They would rather talk about someone than talk to someone about important topics.

    I have found that the quickest way to shut down controversy and bickering is to ask, "Yes, but what are you doing to fix it right now? ...specifics, please?"

    As far as analytics are concerned: I have noticed that my hits spike when my five or six readers are online at the same time. =P

  3. Anastasia Theodoridis said...

    Some very wise observations. Thank you for posting them.

  4. Rev. Milovan Katanic said...

    I've noticed the same thing and I enjoyed your post about it. There's nothing to be gained by it except maybe the excitement of the whole thing and the single fact that it's about someone else (like when kids like it when their brother or sister gets in trouble)... As the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland says, "If everyone minded their own business the world would go round a deal faster than it does" :)

  5. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    Since I try to welcome all new commentors, hello to you, Fr. Milovan! Thank you for reading and for your comment.

    I've read a number of allusions to Alice in Wonderland recently, so I think I'm going to have to read it again as an adult.