27 May 2013

Question on the Frequency of "snarky" emails I receive

[[Dear Sister Laurel, do you often get nasty or "snarky" emails ("snarky" is your word) from people? Can I ask what is the worst one you have ever received? Are these emails from people you know or are they even signed? I know these questions don't have anything to do with the usual topics of this blog but you have received a few comments I thought were pretty disrespectful so I wanted to ask about it. Do they upset you or your solitude?]]

Thanks for your questions. No, I really don't get many nasty or "snarky" emails from people. Ordinarily even those folks who disagree with me respect me and I think they know I respect them too. Thus their emails reflect that and my own responses do the same. Over the years there have been a handful or so of really rude comments but nothing recently. Usually they accompany material that would be good for me to write about so I do that. Sometimes I edit the comments so they are not so inflammatory, and sometimes I have left them as they were. Occasionally I get a comment that I don't know what to do with. The "worst" one was one of these. I still have it and a version of a response I created for this blog in draft form but never published. It (sans response) reads as follows:

[[Isn't your lifestyle rather like the bible's description of women unoccupied, gadding (sic!) about other people's business? Are you not a self seeking mind enriching glutton for self that is absorbed with as well [as] employed with the constant replenishment of your favorite thing ON EARTH ... YOU? Isn't that why you are . . . judgmental and FULL of LISTS of your so-called accomplishments? NONE of which will either GET YOU TO HEAVEN or PREVENT YOU BEING SENT TO THE END OF THE TABLE? Bragging. Degrees. Criticism of others... not CHRIST like at all. A woman without regard for headship---- uncovered TEACHING and self promoting. Pictures LINE EACH PAGE of YOURSELF. Of OTHERS WHO LIVE LIKE YOU because that further validates the most sacred thing to you - YOU. You are in the business of doing nothing.]] (Other than italics, nothing is revised in printing this post.)

In this post there are several important misunderstandings of the nature of eremitical solitude and life and I will probably write about those again at some point ---I think I have already done so indirectly and I have certainly spoken of stereotypes here. Additionally I have sometimes written about the challenges of writing or participating online or about my decision not to allow comments on this blog. In the first case we sometimes see anonymity bringing out the very worst in people; it is a tremendously disappointing phenomenon. In the second case emails such as this one reinforce my sense that allowing comments makes the boundaries between this hermitage blog and those outside it too porous. This comment is meant to disparage, to wound, to hurt, to insult; it is judgmental and generally rooted in ignorance. It was indeed anonymous (unsigned) and posted under a screename I did not know; I do find that most such comments are similarly unsigned. No real surprise there I am sure.

As for whether such comments upset me or disrupt my solitude, the answer is generally no, they don't. They do surprise and sometimes dismay --- not least because ordinarily they admit of no real response and tend to be made up of a tissue of fabrications and misunderstandings. I often wonder why someone would feel they actually knew me well enough to write such things --- or whether they would write such things to their own sister or mother for instance. But why should they upset me or disturb the silence of solitude in which I live?

Remember that the silence of solitude is a communal reality created by dialogue with and in God. It is the quies which results when one is at peace with God. It is the silence of solitude that comes from two hearts being joined in love for the sake of others. Such diatribes cannot upset or disturb this kind of peace. Well-founded criticism is a different matter --- not because it seriously disturbs peace in God, but because it must be seriously addressed and CAN be upsetting in the short term. Thus, well-founded criticism helps shatter any complacency that pretends at being true hesychia. I always listen to and consider criticism. But too often with these kinds of emails that is simply another matter. In the meantime such persons as the one authoring the above comment are added to my prayers. What more can I do?