Saturday, October 29, 2022


  Last week, I wrote about “changing my identity” in order to cure myself of gluttony. I gave the example of quitting smoking years ago, which involved an identity shift from a kind of edgy, cool, tough, cynical woman to one who was gentler, softer, more open. I was becoming a woman who was willing to tolerate nicotine cravings in order to stop doing herself harm. So, what aspects of my identity define me as a glutton? What kind of person might I be evolving into now? How does my attitude need to change?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

the devil you know

     Sometimes it seems impossible to turn good intentions into lasting change. New Year's resolutions rarely last. We usually fall off the wagon, gain the weight back, go shopping instead of saving or paying off debt. Abused women, when they've gotten free, often get into new relationships with new abusers. Big lottery winners go broke again before they know it. Why? Why do we go right back to the devil we know, even when we know damn well it's the devil? Even when we know it's going to hurt us just the same way it hurt last time, and every time before? 

Monday, October 17, 2022


    Well, so I said I would write about the approach of the ancient Christian monastic desert fathers & mothers to sin, starting this week with gluttony. But can I just stop here for a minute and acknowledge the weight of imposter syndrome on this? Because what do I know? I'm not a scholar of ancient Christian asceticism. And I'm not a very good practitioner of modern monastic asceticism, either. What I am is a glutton, honestly. Any moderate progress I made during my first 3 years as a hermit, I've lost during the last year of stress since I decided to move overseas. I have no credibility on this topic, least of all with myself. That said ... I do believe in this stuff! I believe in it enough to want to keep trying it myself, to try again to get on track.

    The desert monks did not expect to master the tendency to gluttony quickly, it is one of the most fundamental and fiercest of the struggles with the will we can face. So, I'm writing this for myself, to explore my own relationship with food and drink, informed by the teaching on gluttony from John Cassian's Institutes. Because failure doesn't mean impossibility. It's just the "error" part of "trial and error." Again, I have come to see self-flagellation as prideful, because beating myself up for my weaknesses implies that I thought I wasn't supposed to have any. I'm weak. I'm human. I fail. Piling drama on top of my failures distracts me from learning from them. 

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Monastic Mindfulness

    I've been promising to write about the ancient monastic approach to sin, and how it's different from the guilt, shame, and threats approach. So this goes back before St. Benedict, to the Egyptian "desert fathers and mothers" of the 3rd-4th century. To drastically oversimplify, it's pretty much Greek Stoic philosophy overlaid onto Coptic and Syriac Christian asceticism. The guy who seems to have been most responsible for developing this synthesis of different traditions is Evagrius Ponticus, a Greek who ran away to Jerusalem after a disastrous love affair with a married woman, and finally ended up among the Egyptian desert monastics. It was further refined and translated back to the European monastic movement by John Cassian, whose books of monastic Conferences and Institutes are cited in St. Benedict's Rule. It's Cassian's version that I've mostly read myself.

Monday, October 3, 2022

ordinary garden-variety sin

     The thing I'm trying to address in these last few blog posts is the crippling sense of guilt, shame, and/or fear of punishment that too many people have been taught to feel about sin. Sin is a thing ... we all do it ... we all sin every day. So, looked at from one side, it's really no big deal. It's just the ordinary humanness, it's just all the little ways we all mess up all the time, overspending, overeating, surfing porn, little white lies, bigger lies, padding the expense account, losing our temper, lashing out, yelling at the kids, gossiping, flirting (or more) with someone we shouldn't be flirting with, compromising our values for the paycheck, taking more credit than is due, goofing off on the job, whatever it is. They're bad habits, they're weaknesses, they're so ordinary.