13 May 2012

About this blog.

The title of this blog is inspired by Alexandros Papadiamandis' short story The Whorehouse, of which I was made aware when reading this passage concerning that story, from the best monograph in English on Papadiamandis:

The priests approach the community's outcasts and sinners with the same sense of pastoral responsibility as they approach the pious.  Papa-Pentelis in Athens does not hesitate to enter and perform the blessing of waters in houses of prostitutes or to celebrate Liturgy in country chapels at the summons of Mrs. Spiridoulas, a woman whom her neighbors judge because she rents rooms to women of ill repute.  When her good neighbors are scandalized and some are bold enough to demand a justification form the priest, he simply answers that Christ did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.  Naturally, Papadiamandis does not pardon Mrs. Spiridoulas, nor does he accept the business in which she engages.  He does, however, want to highlight how this priest shrugs off the judgement of the wider Athenian society, one that lacks a true worshipping community like that found on Skiathos.
( - from Greece's Dostoevsky: The Theological Vision of Alexandros Papadiamandis by Anestis Keselopoulas, translated by Herman A. Middleton, Protecting Veil Press, 2011, page 53).

The goal of this blog is to discuss a wide breadth of cultural and literary themes.   Life and love and America and our shrinking world, with an eye to old boundary stones and new discontents and the desire to come to some terms with what we may come to terms with, or, if we may be so bold, even what we need to come to terms with. Perhaps we seek a more keen awareness of the peculiarities of attempting to live out the Orthodox faith in an American context and amidst the strangeness and sometimes blessed, sometimes despair-inducing terrain of American Orthodoxy.  We're looking for the terms to negotiate with, and the hope of a serviceable wisdom to make our way in unsettling waters. 

There not being, yet, an American Alexondros Papadiamandis Society, this blog will seek to take up a wee bit of the lack by making very frequent reference to the writings of Papadiamandis, and the secondary literature concerning him, with frequent questions regarding how we might approach questions of American Orthodox experience from the vantage point of Papadiamandis' literary richness and his insight into humanity, faith, and the beauty of fragile traditions and the breath of community life - from its sometimes smug, sometimes stabilizing centers to its often revelatory and redeeming fringes. 

There is no intent here to take Papadiamandis as a guru, or as some singular source of wisdom.  Papadiamandis himself would seem to have been horrified at the suggestion that any truth he articulated was particularly novel or original.  Though I think he might accept our insistence that among modern literary voices his is a rare one.  And I think a number of Orthodox thinkers would argue that he is a gifted and perceptive voice.

There are certainly any number of good guides one could choose as a reference via which to seek to find a hermeneutic through which to read this life we try to live in contemporary America as Orthodox Christians.  I suppose this blog assumes that we want to find some such lens, or lenses, and as it is not always a bad idea to return again and again to one good teacher, I have chosen Papadiamandis (and his friends and guides, especially 
Papa-Nicholas Planas) for this medium.

Your writer here is an Orthodox Christian, first encountering Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe a score of years ago.  My experience of Orthodoxy has been the usual admixture of healing, brutality, blessedness, cultishness, profundity, pettiness, life, loss, love.  The Church is sometimes stingy in offering consolations, yet those consolations do seem to come at that very moment when you need them, or perhaps not, for some, I suppose in fear. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about my life, and I intend to keep this a pseudonymous blog.  I post and comment under the pseudonym "the fallen dervish," a title I get from one of my favorite Papadiamandis stories.  I should state from the outset that I am not an academic and that I do not read modern Greek.  I am simply an avid reader who discovered Papadiamandis and became intrigued.  I'm muddling my way through this with the rest of the novices.  

Though I intend to discuss questions of living an Orthodox life in America today, I don't want to dwell on the particulars of Orthodox politics here, especially the complexities and banalities of American Orthodox politics, and I'd like to keep the tone on this blog and its comment threads civil and considerate at all times.  The old truism about the battle being fought by everyone you meet, and all that, and the wisdom of the Syrian when he admonishes - "make peace with yourself, and both heaven and earth will make peace with you."  I've found the hard way that by expressing fury on the internet, I reveal a lot more about my interior poverty than I reveal about whatever it is I am raging against.  So let's try to tame that here and ask and ponder questions together in respect and mutual love. 

Thank you for your interest in this tiny little pixel hearth in the colossal world of blogdom.  Peace to you, reader. 


  1. I have a copy of Papadiamandis' short stories which remains mostly unread, so I am very excited to have a reason to read them and a place to discuss them.

  2. As always, you've a gnomish penchant for the bon mot. "Tiny little pixel hearth." And best of all, "the fallen dervish." Vitajte, and s'Bohom.

  3. OK, I guess I'll have to pick up Papadiamandis' book. I keep hesitating because I've found most "religious" fiction to be didactic and strained. I'm looking forward to the discussions here.

  4. Just stumbled across your blog today. I had never heard of Papadiamandis before, but he looks intriguing, so I just ordered his short stories from Amazon. Looking forward to reading and discussing!

  5. Sounds great! I look forward to reading and commenting more. The reference to the secondary literature concerning Papadiamandis reminded me of an issue that I might raise at my own blog that perhaps readers of this one might care to discuss.

  6. I'll be watching your blog like the pixel hawk that I am Aaron.

  7. Okay, at long last your watch may be about to pay off!