Due to advances in modern technology, it has become easier for people to find each other. In the past, it was normal for grow apart. Some moved out of the state or away from their country. For several months, year, or decades, people would hear from them and then they would disappear. Yet in the age of Facebook and Twitter, it is increasingly difficult for people to disappear and not be found. Indeed, technology has made it difficult for many to hide.
Over the last day or so, I’ve had some opportunities to interact with people from days gone by. This morning, I found an e-mail from a priest I used to know many years ago. He was my pastor at the Greek Orthodox parish I attended during my childhood and adolescence. He had read my post about the experiences I had had in Los Angeles and wanted me to join him at a Sunday evening gathering in which he and others were reading a book about Eastern religions and Orthodoxy. I deleted the e-mail.
This is not the first time. He has called and asked after me. He has sent me pamphlets to read and invited me to events. I understand that he does this because it is part of his job as a shepherd to find “lost sheep.” Yet I am not lost. At least, I don’t believe myself to be. I found a home in the Catholic Church. I am under new shepherds and in a Church which I believe that Our Lord founded.
When it comes to clergy, I’ve always had difficulties explaining my situation. With Fr. S., the priest I mentioned, the problem is compounded because I just don’t know what to say when he invites me to church. It’s hard to explain to someone I’ve known my entire life that I changed religions and switched sides. It’s even more difficult to explain the road that led to this point. Therefore, I’ve done the only thing that I can do in such a situation: nothing. That’s right. I haven’t done anything at all.
Another ghost that I heard from today was a friend that I’ve known since the first grade. We were friends for many years, but we gradually drifted apart. Over the last few years, I really haven’t thought about her or what she’s been doing with her life. I read her blog from time to time, but that was about it.
When I spoke with her today over the internet, I realized how much I had changed over the last two years. She sincerely wrote to me and asked me about my life. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about it. Too much had changed, too many things had come and gone. Once again, I did what I’ve done many times before in situations like this: nothing.
I do believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason and that He also takes them away. When I’ve been “found” on Facebook by people that I used to know many years ago, I’m mostly surprised that they found me. I read about what they’ve done with their lives and leave it at that. I don’t friend because I don’t believe that we have anything in common.
I sometimes wonder if people who don’t use Facebook or Twitter are happier for it. While they don’t have access to people from years and years ago, they are also probably blissfully ignorant that these people exist. They don’t have to read about their statuses every day. They don’t have to hear about the games they play, the books they read, and the places they go. They merely content themselves with hearing from them every once in a while: an e-mail here, a phone call there, and a Christmas letter.
In cloistered communities, technology is one of the first things to go. I’ve known of two young people, a young man and a young woman, who gave up their Facebook accounts and cell phones when they entered their respective communities. Why? The answer is clear.
If one is to enter monastic life, one must divest one’s self of all those elements that belong to the world. The diversions of one’s former life change. Where one would surf the net, one reads books in the library or plays volleyball. The afternoon spent on a bicycle becomes a time for prayer and meditation. Everything changes and yet it is all simplified.
In An Infinity of Little Hours, the five young monks only heard from their parents only four times a year. For the rest of the time, they remained ignorant of what was going outside the cloister walls. There were no newspapers or magazines, no computers, no radios, or televisions. The world was shut out of the monastery and every day continued like the next. The old ghosts didn’t haunt them and, if they did, they were not important.
I have tried many times to divest myself of technology and to live an austere life. Although I can live without the internet for several days or weeks, I find myself coming back and wondering how people are doing. Yet I know that if I am going to spend the rest of my life focused on God, I will have to gradually ease myself off of these things. Maybe not this blog, but other things and put the ghosts of my past to rest.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!