Perennialists and Digressers All,
I will come right out with it: I will be closing down A Perennial Digression. There are various, closely related reasons I’ve made the decision to do so, and I wanted to offer something of an apologos (not to be confused with an apologia) for my forthcoming absence from these pages.
The first and foremost reason that I am closing up shop is that I simply do not have the time or the energy to produce the kind of content I’d like to and that I think a dedicated readership deserves. I began APD around a year and a half ago, over the summer between my first and second years at my previous institution, before my child came along and when I had a relatively large amount of free time for this kind of thing. I continued to have quite a bit of time when my daughter was first born, because I would spend many hours a day landlocked in a rocking chair for naps, with nothing but my phone and this blank red void for company apart from my sleeping infant. But my daughter is one now; for around six months, she’s been progressively more alert, mobile, and in need of my partnership in the finer things of life, like rolling about the floor, trying to stand up and fall down in inopportune places, and waking up at two in the morning to freestyle on the news of the moment. Her recent anniversary promises only more such pioneering to come, and I am afraid my services are needed elsewhere.
I can hear the objection: why not keep the newsletter, and just write it when I have the time? The second reason, then, is because I am finding that between work and fatherhood, my mind is so fried when I do have free time that I cannot think of much interesting or important to say these days. My current Dashboard is full of a dozen articles that I have started, gotten some way into, and then abandoned when my energy failed me; the most annoying are those that burst upon me but with which my ether seems ill-equipped to keep pace. There is something disheartening about fighting for waking hours long enough to sit down to do this, conceiving a halfway decent idea, chasing it around 3/4 of the way to the end, and then finding that I cannot physically stay awake long enough to take it to completion; and then finding, subsequently upon waking or finding some other spare moment of the day, that I lack the presence of mind to remember what I was thinking or why I thought what I wrote was a good idea in the first place the next time I sit down. APD is hardly the only effort that has ever suffered this from me, which I admit is a larger problem of procrastination and distractibility on my part. I have probably written and rewritten a catechetical book project about a dozen times, each time beginning anew when I find I cannot pick up the thread of the last session I had time to work on the project so as to continue it.
And I am genuinely finding that I am not confident I have much new or interesting or important to say. If there are mountains and valleys in faith and religious life—easily the primary object of my attention in these pages—then I find myself in a long valley, perhaps a ravine by now, or a dark wood with thick canopy, not unlike the one Dante begins the Commedia in. Call it adulthood, call it a year of losses and pain (among other things, an alienated parent suffering a stroke, summoning me back into their life, and promptly disappearing again once recovered), call it the continuing ambiguities of life as an ecclesial exile, spent on the margins between communities and traditions that all have equal claims on my affection and for that reason will not claim me as their own, call it the darkening clouds of the world’s political and economic forecasts as a new parent, but I find I just do not have much in the way of anything good to say these days. God, as he sometimes does, feels more to me a fact right now than a living reality: I know him as a deduction of philosophy, I know him as the ever-present witness of all my own mental and sensate phenomena, but I am not getting much in the way of what one might call spiritual nourishment from any kind of bhakti just now (but also not much sleep, and the two might just be the same).
Third, though, and following on this, I am simply finding the climate of discourse, online and in person, less and less guided by the canons of critical thinking that I most value and more animated by pre and post-rational kinds of commitments that, if they had no power to do anything, would slide right off of me, but face me now at a time where I really stand to lose something. Without going too much into detail, I will simply say that, ecclesially and nationally, it is not at present an era where the quality of one’s ideas are evaluated on their own merit and the freedom to think them is the most hallowed right. I have not been too dodgy about my own stances: theologically, I am willing to abandon an idea or practice of the tradition if it seems to me false or harmful for some reason, and I suppose in that sense I would qualify as a theological liberal (though in other respects I am much more theologically conservative or traditional than most who claim that title); politically and socially, I am fairly lefty, convicted that the infinite dignity of every human person has certain political consequences that more clearly align with the stated goals of one end of our currently polarized spectrum and that, in general, people should be free to live as their consciences demand, respecting the dignity of others (but that, again, requires that they first be able to live). I wish it were the case that I lived in a world where I did not have to worry about either of those convictions costing me a job; I wish that a project of public scholarship and speculative theology like APD constituted no liability for someone like me as a teacher in the independent, confessional school system. But, simply put, harsh realism demands that I acknowledge that it does in our climate; and while in my single life that would not have bothered me, and I might even have gloried in the martyrdom of it all, there are now people who depend on the income I make that are not me. Life in general, and politics and religion in particular, are all much easier when they only have to serve one’s own ego.
For these reasons, APD, both as Substack and as YouTube, will be shutting down soon. By themselves, any one of these reasons would not be enough to encourage me to close the project down; but taken together, they give me pause about what I’m really doing here and why. I’m not convinced that APD is the primary or best venue for the sort of thing I have tried to do here; I am not convinced that there is anything I do or say here that is not better done or said elsewhere. But I am also not sure that, even if it were, I have the energy to keep going at the pace the idea requires.
I have nothing but the heartiest thanks for all readers and guests who supported the project through its brief lifespan. Someday, perhaps, I will resurrect it for another go, when time and energy permit, or perhaps continue its work in some other form. For those who have paid to support the project, very special thanks, and an assurance that I will instruct Substack to stop charging upon completing this article. It is because I do not take that support for granted that I do not want it to go to something I seem to not be able to find the heart to keep doing the way I used to.
May God, the eternal path of all our digressions, bless you all.
Ειρήνη πάσι, and valeatis,
Been a reader and viewer for some time now - and this is my first time commenting. All I’ll say is that I’m very appreciative of the work you’ve done and the thinkers you’ve connected me with through your work.
I can also heavily empathize with how you feel right now, as it accurately describes where I was at two years ago (in regard to seeing God more as a fact). For that reason I took a break from the internet debates and philosophy as a whole. Have spent a lot of time just reading fiction/non-fiction for pleasure as opposed to study, and feel more connected to my Ground than ever before as a result.
Anyway, thanks again for everything, and I hope that you’ll find peace.
I’ve read since last year and I just wanted to say thank you so much for this and your other works especially the interviews and series works here.I think we all can understand having not much inspiration to say anything at least in the fore front of our mind nor having the energy to say anything I wish you the best in fatherhood and life in general.