Do not react
by Andrea Elizabeth
(quote from Metropolitan Jonah)
19% (I’d prefer page numbers on my Kindle) in to The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, I can’t get the Wiki bio out of my mind. I tend to believe that novels are in some way autobiographical. There are two things that are bothering me, which doesn’t mean they aren’t justified. 1) the now main character, the son of one of the previous main characters, feels persecuted; and 2) the dialectical opposition between the two factions. If we grant that James Hogg was persecuted in real life, and that he emoted this in TPMaCoaJS, I should first look at the merits of the initial opposition. It is a juicy opposition between strict Calvinists and a hedonist. I wish I could take sides, but the hedonist is more sympathetically written. I agree with this sympathy, but they are two broad roads noising out a middle road of non-judgmental purity that I’d prefer. Thus my discomfort with the opposition. Re #1, I’m not sure if a Calvinist can always out-persecute a hedonist, but I’ll grant the possibility until further research convinces me otherwise. If one feels persecuted, the way the first son, George, is dealing with it is understandable, though to me it plays to my own sense of self-pity. I think the feelings of anger and loneliness are to be fought off more pointedly than the insults and shunning.
If one feels persecuted, I think one should remain a bit agnostic about it. There could be a legitimate weakness being criticized. Even if there isn’t, “blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake”. The latter takes some pride to believe about onesself. Even if one isn’t sure about the justification, and is grieved, well, “blessed are the poor in spirit” too. In either case, one shouldn’t always stay under such persecution, but one should avoid the self-pity, anger, and loneliness it provokes. There is a proper time and audience for mourning and emoting, but then one should strive to get over it in order to prevent self-destructive wallowing, or worse, revenge, which is what I worry the author is getting in this story.
The homily today at Church for St. Euthymius the Great included the teaching that any thought that makes you discontent with your circumstances is evil. I think some persecutions are too much to bear, but that is probably because of the bearers’ weakness. It seems that some Saints can stand almost anything, except defilement of virginity, without sinful thoughts or reactions. Fr. also mentioned the teaching that one should be slow to change their circumstances, especially in this day of quick and easy fixes.