Writing Begets Writing: On Habit and Vocation

David Russell Mosley

Ordinary Time
27 November 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, another few weeks has gone by and I haven’t posted anything. This hasn’t been due to a lack of ideas, or even a lack of events in my own life on which I could write. Instead, I think a lot of it come from sloth. Sloth and getting out of the habit of writing, anyway. You see, I’m a stay-at-home dad for the time being. And most of the time I love it. I love getting to cuddle with my boys and watch them grow. They’d probably love it better if skills went beyond bread and jam, bread and eggs, or bread, ham, and cheese. But still, with two 18 month-olds running around, getting extra work done can be difficult. Sadly, this isn’t because I’m too busy chasing after them, not most of the time anyway, but because it’s too easy to just sit and watch TV or sit and read. These would be OK, the latter at least, if when they went down for their naps I exercised or wrote or something. But so often I don’t. Writing while they’re awake has its own problems too. Little fingers like touching computers and when they don’t, the little mouths attached to them start crying. But still these are just excuses. I could probably find a way to work around this, to train my kids not to grab at my computer while I’m working and still spend time with them. So what’s the problem? Getting out of the habit.

As many of you know, since I wrote to you about it, I’m publishing a novel (or Faërie Romance as I like to call it) with Wipf and Stock Publishers. What you might not know is that I wrote that book while also blogging and working on my PhD thesis (which is also being published by Fortress Press). Just on my thesis and novel alone, not counting conference papers or blog posts or letters or journal entries, in the three years I was resident in Nottingham I wrote over 150000 words or close to 400-500 pages. Add in everything else and I probably hit thousands of pages (not all of it good, admittedly). You see, for me at least, and I think for most writers, writing begets more writing. I had a routine of writing in a few different journals, reading books for research, pleasure, and enrichment, writing letters to friends, blog posts, my thesis and more. All of these outlets for writing made me want to write more. So, once I finished my novel, and then my thesis, and stay-at-home parenting took over more and more of my time, I started writing in the other places less and less. Hence my relative silence here. Once I stopped writing in some areas, it became harder to write in others.

Virtue and vice have firm roots in habit. Vices are bad habits we engage in, they become second nature to us, so much so that often we don’t even recognise temptation or the choice to give in. There is only one way to rid ourselves of vices (with the aid of God’s grace), and that is to replace them with their corresponding virtues. These virtues must become habits replacing the vicious habits. I mention virtues and vices because their inherent relationship to habit has been precisely my problem. Vices like sloth (and others I won’t mention here) have gotten in the way. I have not simply gotten out of good habits (though some might contend that my writing here is not one) but have fallen into bad ones. That needs to change. I must pursue the virtuous life. For only then can I co-operate with the grace of God and work toward my deification. This might sound strange, writing for a blog doesn’t necessarily lead one to deification. But writing for me is part of that process and the only way I can get back into the habit of writing is to write, to replace sloth with diligence. So, I am committing myself to write in my journal every day; to write letters when I have some to write; to post here twice a week; and to begin work on a new research project; all while I work on preparing my two works for publication.

So, I have a request for you my correspondents, please help keep me accountable (a word with which I have some hang-ups). Feel free to ask me about my writing habits, clamor for new content out loud––I know you keep it bottled up, let it out. Being a father should not keep me from caring for my children and fulfilling my vocation of being a theologian, help me make sure it doesn’t. Give me advice, tell me about your own struggles, ask me to write about something, do anything you think might help me keep writing. I’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t. In the meantime, look out for two new posts next week.


Seth Rogen, The Green Hornet and Christian Heroism: Old Post 3


The New Green Hornet
Last night my wife and I watched the new Green Hornet with Seth Rogen. While I knew better than to expect something that remained true to the original Green Hornet, I was, nevertheless, severely disappointed. Not only did Rogen’s adaptation fail to deliver the essence of the Green Hornet as the purposely misunderstood hero who’s alter ego is the intelligent newspaperman, but he also failed to understand the purpose of heroes in society.
What Makes Rogen’s Hornet the Hero?
While heroes come from different kinds of backgrounds and upbringings, Rogen’s Hornet is the spoiled child of a mean, if not otherwise mostly virtuous, widower. Growing up he becomes a rather unintelligent, hedonistic loaf who becomes the head of a media empire after the death of his father. Through a variety of circumstances he and his martial art/engineering expert partner pose as bad guys to fight crime. First they do so in order to “stick it” to Rogen’s old man. Then they do it in his honor, once they understand him better.
What Didn’t I Like?
Rogen’s Hornet is selfish. Until the end of the movie he fights for selfish reasons. He refuses to listen to his partner Cato and does not have the intelligence to have any reason not to do so. Rogen’s Hornet is a bumbling idiot who fights for something, but it is difficult to figure out what. Is it justice? Is it the memory of his father? Is it to be cool? I’m not sure, but mostly the latter with a mix of the first two seems to be the case.
Also, I could not stand the sheer amount of violence and death that took place in this film. In their first outing, Cato causes at least one gang member to be shot and killed. The others seem either to be dead or unconscious. Either way, violence, the ability to better beat or kill your opponent is seen as a virtue. The rid themselves of the two main villains by killing them. One get stabbed in the eyes and the other is crushed by half of car falling from about 30 stories. This I cannot stand. It seems to me, that Rogen in his attempt to make a slapstick superhero movie missed the purpose of the hero rather than truly parodying it.
What are Heroes supposed to Be?
Rogen’s heroes fight for themselves or at least for some semblance of an idea of justice. This is not what the hero is supposed to be. The hero stands for societal values. The hero inspires societal values. The hero is someone both the individual and the society as a whole can say, “I want to be like that person. That person is better than I am and makes me want to be better than I am.” Heroes also cause some aspect, or aspects, of the divine to be brought down to the human level.
Upholders and Creators of Societal Virtues
Heroes, true, mythic heroes, are representations of what a society values. They embody the ideals and can even go beyond the current ideals of a society in order to encourage and inspire those who are not heroes. If we take a look at comics from the 30s, 40s and 50s, those heroes may have had flaws––save Aunt May or save the world? Always be Superman or take time to be Clark Kent? Take out your anger on the villain or help them get better––but they served to inspire. They taught the children of those ages that truth was better than lying; that justice meant doing what was right no matter the costs; that freedom for all meant the eradication of oppression. Captain America, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Thor these characters filled a much-needed niche. They taught us to be better. In some ways they even showed us new virtues. A society built on capitalism might make us think that ends justify the means, Superman taught us never to lie (except about your secret identity).
Incarnating the Divine
Heroes also serve to show us God. Its true, many of the heroes I listed above were not made by professing Christians. Nevertheless, when they show us things that are true, that are virtuous, they are showing us aspects of God that we might not see or understand otherwise. God does this often. In fact, the Incarnation, God the Son becoming a human is perhaps the ultimate example of that. God knows that for us to be truly human, to reach the goals he has set for us, we will need not only his help internally, through the Holy Spirit, but we also need the example of other men and women. Sometimes it is hard to think that we can ever be like Jesus, he was perfect, infallible; we are not. But maybe we can be a bit more like Paul or Timothy or Polycarp or Augustine or John Cassian or Catherine of Siena or Mary the mother of Jesus. Perhaps these people whose faults we can see we can be like, while they also try to be like Christ. Rogen’s Hornet does none of this for us.
The New Green Hornet and American Virtues
The new Green Hornet seems to be saying that violence, sex, some misguided sense of justice and intelligence are what we value as a society. As Christians, even as Americans, we must reject these values.
Who are Our Heroes?
We need to return to better heroes. We need to be reminded of the virtues and values that all societies ought to stand for. As Christians we need to baptize the heroes our societies do have so we can use them to show people the light and truth that is Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Teacher, our Model, our Hero. We also need to rediscover some of our own heroes from Christian history and learn from and follow them as they followed Christ. Finally, we need to every day become heroes ourselves so we can inspire those around us to be better, to become more like Christ and give their lives over to him. The only way to be truly heroic, to be truly human, is to be like Christ.