"Red Dirt Mysterion" -- 2nd Orthodox Blog is Up


I have opened a second blog -- still written from an Orthodox perspective, and working in tandem with this one -- titled "Red Dirt Mysterion." It may be found at http/reddirtmysterion.wordpress.com.

The initial page of "Red Dirt Mysterion," which actually is the introductory "About" page, is reprinted below.

The purpose of this new blog is to post on anything and everything from an Orthodox perspective which is at least lurking in the background.

Blog posts that are overtly Orthodox will appear on both blogs -- this one and "Red Dirt."

Posts that are more about "anything and everything," and in which the Orthodox perspective is really lurking -- "deep background," albeit always there, always sniffing around at things -- will be over there only. My hunch is that the regular readers of this site would prefer that kind of separation, keeping the inevitable ambiguities at least somewhat minimized.

The following is the first entry in "Red Dirt," the "About" page:

* * * * * * * * * * *

This blog is a series of journal entries on just about anything that comes along and gets my attention.

Since I am a recent convert to the (Eastern) Orthodox Church in America — a friendly outgrowth of the Russian Orthodox Church in this country a generation or so ago — there is a lurking Orthodox perspective behind the entries.

My perspective may or may not be obvious in any given entry. It may not even be mentioned.
But, since I’m trying to find my own Orthodox voice in all matters great and small, the perspective is behind any given entry even if nothing very Orthodox’ish is said.

Even if the presence of that perspective isn’t obvious at all.

Now, this next is important in understanding the crazy-quilt of topics that will appear here:

I came to Orthodoxy after 40 years of Presbyterian ministry. Those years were profoundly nourished by a terrific interest in shamanism and then Buddhism (especially the form of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism known as Shin Buddhism). These interests have been life-long, but they gathered in intensity over the final half of my Presbyterian ministry.

Now I know why: they led directly to the Orthodox Church. (I now say that if John the Baptist was the Forerunner of Messiah in first century Palestine, my Forerunner for Messiah must have been John the Buddhist.) And because I still cherish all of those spiritual forerunners of mine, my interests tend to look like a crazy-quilt.

Here’s where this crazy-quilt blog gets its weird name: Red Dirt Mysterion.

“RED DIRT”: a name for a soil common enough in Oklahoma that those parts of the state are called “Red Dirt Country.” The pictures above [NOTE: this refers to the header on the new blog] are of the birthplace of Woody Guthrie (no longer standing) in Okemah, Oklahoma — smack in the middle of Red Dirt Country.

That’s where I was born and raised: Oklahoma. I loved my home, and love it even still, even if I no longer live there. But red dirt itself always depressed me. It looked so desolate, so barren, even if thick with flora. The creeks and rivers that ran through red dirt country were invariably … not running. Bone dry.

That’s because Oklahoma red dirt is mostly an iron-rich clay that absorbs water like nobody’s business, leaving the top layers dried to dust. And the dust blows everywhere. Cars that drive over it, come home looking like really dusty, really old, red peppers.

(None of this has anything to do with the Dust Bowl, by the way. All manner of dust blew around then, not just the red stuff. What’s more, most of the Dust Bowl was in Texas, Colorado and Kansas. Only a small part of western Oklahoma was involved. Elsewhere, the red dust just kept on a’blowin’ because that’s just what red dirt does when the top layers dry out.

(Oh, why not another “by the way” while I’m at it: ”Red Dirt Country” also happens to be the name of a fairly recent new “trend” in country music. It just so happens it got its start in Oklahoma. I’m not all that much of a country fan — although I love bluegrass, and all manner of banjo picking, country/western included — but I’ll say this for Red Dirt Country: it rocks!

(And heck, one last “by the way” since I’m on a roll: Maybe it’s a titch more than ironic that Oklahoma today — a state that gave birth, literally, to a Woody Guthrie, and once had the largest Socialist party in the country — is a red state, as national voting patterns now are described.)

And believe it or not, all of those things, “by-the-way’s” included, fit in here too:

It was, and is, a spiritual challenge for me to discern Holy Spirit in the “red dirt” places of life and the world. To find the Creator’s beauty and meaning where we least expect it.

“MYSTERION”: the Orthodox name for the “sacraments.”

We had a focused definition of “sacrament” in the Presbyterian Church: “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible Reality.” It’s a good one, too; one I still use a lot.

Trouble is, it’s a definition that also invites a lot of academic jabber; and Protestant theologies, like Roman Catholic theologies, often went nuts defining all of that down to the last punctuation mark and dangling participle.

In Orthodoxy, we just calls these things the Mysteries … or, in New Testament Greek, which the word comes from, the Mysterion.

Is the “red dirt” of life, and of history, capable of conveying Holy Spirit? Capable of being Mysterion?

That’s the Question of questions, for me.

Can anything — does everything – convey Holy Spirit, even if it’s not obvious to us? Even if Holy Spirit announces its Presence as a desolating Absence?

Orthodoxy says it does.

Orthodoxy says all matter and all space/time, in all the dimensions and multiverses there may be, is saturated with the "Uncreated Energies” of God.

Those energies, in Catholic and Protestant thought, usually are considered to be “attributes” or “characteristics” of God — love, mercy, goodness, patience and so on. Considerably more abstract, lots more conceptual.

It’s pretty left-brained.

In Orthodoxy, they are just what we call them: energies.

They are ways God encounters creation, above all the human part of creation. Ways that God moves within all of creation … sometimes moving creation itself around a little in order to do a kind of course-correction and get it headed back to its appointed End and Goal.

You encounter the Energies. You feel, you experience the Energies. You don’t think them, or at least not very much, let alone try to explain them (they are, after all, Mysteries). You live in them, participate in them (2 Peter 1:4b — “4b” means the last part of verse 4).

It’s more right-brained, I reckon you could say.

So when I go plowing through the “red dirt” of my own life, of history, of the world and its joys and sorrows, clarities and ambiguities, loves and hates and everything in between — can I sense the Mysterion that’s there?

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth – we Orthodox pray, turning our attention to the Holy Spirit – You who are in all places, and who fill all things … .

When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, we Orthodox teach, all water thereby was made holy. Same difference. Holiness — the state of being saturated with the Uncreated Energies — radiates everywhere and through all things.

(If I were Hindu and/or Buddhist — and I almost was, at one point in my spiritual journey — I’d say this is the Net of Indra at work. In case that’s not familiar, you can Google it and finds tons o’ stuff.)

The Incarnation itself — God becoming fully human without ever ceasing to be fully Divine — means space/time matter/energy conveys Holy Spirit just fine.

Space and time, matter and energy, and this and all other universes, are not the Sacred. But they do convey the sacred.

Everything is Mysterion, at least potentially.

Even red dirt. Or so I hope. Finding out, sniffing and poking around in all kinds of stuff, hoping for at least a whiff of the Sacred ... that's what this blog is about.

Read with me, and together let’s find out.


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