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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Anonymous....Invisible...Mysterious....Friend

When I was growing up, in classes in school and through magazines, "pen pals" would be advertised. For awhile in 9th grade, I had a pen pal named Paqui from Valencia, Spain. We gave up, though, because we both had to have someone translate our respective letters. I also had a pen pal in Michigan, which relationship began when I met her one summer when visiting my Dad. That didn't last, either.

Adrienne has a post up urging everyone to, for once, get a pen out and WRITE to people...put pen to actual paper or cardstock, and trace, with the ink from the pen, lines that comprise words and sentences and paragraphs, then actually send it by REAL mail. Fr. V., too, laments the lack of handwritten letters which in the past forged such a connection between people. In this age of technology, how many of us receive WRITTEN letters as opposed to electronically-generated bills and advertisements every day?

I know I rarely receive anything handwritten. If I do, it's a card for a holiday from Mom or an Aunt. And as I have admitted before and do so again...I'm horrible at even sending cards!


WHO ARE YOU...REALLY?

UKOK has a wonderful post up, an invitation to share with her our true images; what we really look like, so she can place a face to our words. It's a brilliant idea, but I hesitate to carry out the same thing; because I fear if I do, I will have to "come out" here and reveal my true identity.

I did go ahead and send her a photo of myself, as did many other people, via email. Because even we, the Great Anonymous Bloggers, have a desire to make true connections, to see each other, to place a name with a face, to humanize those we are meeting in this area of penpalship greatly accelerated by the advances of technology.

There are a few who know who I really am; we've met in person, or maybe exchanged photos and names and addresses. And I value all of these friendships; indeed, once we take that step, it takes our relationship from a superficial "internet friend" to a level approaching true friendship.

Several years ago, I was involved in a writing website, and there were some people I would have called "friends", although our values were different, although our perspective on life was different, although we had neither seen each other nor would we ever be likely to do so. The site began a series of annual conventions, which are even today enormously popular, and turned those superficial friends into real friends. I do think such a thing is beautiful; for who are your friends but those who share your interests?

I think that, had I gone to that convention, I would have had a great time, but in all honesty, it's unlikely I would have maintained contact with anyone. Because my "friends" there were not really based upon any solid foundation, but upon our interest in writing and in writing about similar things. With some, there was a bond of faith...very generally. (I was at the beginning of my conversion at the time.) With others, it was friendly "chat", which often resulted in revealing a difference of fundamental beliefs, of which we agreed to disagree.

Those kinds of connections with people are fine...but they aren't really "friendships" and I knew it then, and know it now.

QUO VADIS?

When I first entered the world of the internet, I was very cautious; I did not want to put my true name or my face out there, for fear it would be used against me. What if I said something stupid? What if a psychospaz found me and came after me? What if my identity was stolen?

To this day, my email is a pseudonym. I have a very common name, so it's unlikely that will change; adding a letter or number only invites a typo that will send an email with sensitive information intended for me, to some stranger who, with my luck, would be just the person looking for such information for some financial gain. (Not that they would gain anything off of me...I'm very poor and can't afford to have bad credit as a result of such theft!)

Blogging began at the behest of a friend that I met on a Catholic singles website. During the course of our conversations, he thought he might be called to the priesthood, I thought I might be called to religious life. And so we never dated, but our friendship continued. We are friends to this day. He is now engaged and looking at the permanent diaconate...I am...um...you know...still lost. (I may start a new community: Sisters and Brothers of Perpetual Discernment)

Anywho, after several email exchanges, my friend, himself a blogger, encouraged me to put my thoughts and opinions into a blog. My initial thought was, "What can I POSSIBLY have to say?"

STOP LAUGHING!

REAL FRIENDSHIP

It's been a few years, and I think this blog has become the equivalent of a book. And my commenters, some other bloggers, some not, have become friends. During my first year, a few of us local bloggers got together and had dinner. (I still owe Desperate Irish Housewife a beer from that night.) I've met a few of those people outside of that night...such as Cathy, the Recovering Dissident Catholic. She first contacted me via email one day, and now, we are good friends, and she has a blog of her own which reaches out to those seeking the true faith. And there are others, such as Ray Marshall, and Our Word, formally Judy and Mitchell Hadley. (We watched the Preakness together a couple years ago, in shocked silence as Barbaro first broke from the gate and then shattered his leg in front of his adoring fans.)

But there's more.

Last spring, a reporter contacted me, looking for information on the Catholic and general Christian blogosphere. I put some thought into this because it's different than the writing website I used to be on. The "friends" I have met as a Catholic blogger have become true friends, including those I haven't met yet. There are a few who are truly "pen pals" although we haven't written longhand letters. Yet the seeds of friendship are there, and if we were to be able to meet, we'd likely chat as though we'd known each other forever.

There are bloggers who have contributed to my grad school funds, and, very touchingly, last summer to my vet bills for Fire when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and subsequently put down. I had just quit my job, did not have other employment...and these people came to my aid. They didn't know me in person, they had no idea if I really was who I said I was, and in our world of deception, I would argue that they had every reason to leave me to rot.

But they didn't. Because there is something that unites us as Catholics that goes far beyond blogging or even pen pals. There is a foundation that transcends us. There is a community that was established long before the internet.

We have a supernatural unity in the Catholic Church. Those I call friends in Canada, in Texas, in Ohio (numerous!), here in Minnesota, in Illinois, in Utah, in Tennesee, etc., are not just pen pals or fellow bloggers. They are fellow parishioners. They are the people with whom I would be friends if I went to their home parishes. If they come to my town, I'd invite them to my church...and/or others in my area.

I look a the letters from Clement, from Ignatius, from Paul and from James...they are our predecessors. While they wrote from authority and friendship both, guaranteed other early Christians were writing to each other out of simple friendship and brotherhood. Is the Church really any different today?

PSEUDONYMS

You may ask...why, then, with all this happy-go-lucky-warm-fuzzy-brotherhood do I still use a pen name?

Simple; for discernment.

Not EVERYONE on the internet is a potential friend. Not EVERYONE is trustworthy. Not EVERYONE is who they claim to be.

I have actually Googled my real name, and the the only thing I found was actually my race scores in an Alpine GS (Giant Slalom) from a local league a few years ago. Sadly, it wasn't even my best time!

So far, I have been successful in keeping my identity sacred.

Names have power. Names are important, and I reserve the right to give my name ONLY to those who have proven themselves to be worthy. And likewise, I am honored to be entrusted with another person's real name.

When I write, I write what I truly think, what I believe, and what I feel. I have written of my family and of my work. Being "anonymous" allows me to do this freely, without fear that what I say will be attached, correctly or incorrectly to certain people or places. Maybe there's a certain catharsis in my writing, that, through writing under a nom de plume, doesn't degrade to gossip or detraction.

If I knew my family was reading what I wrote, my writing would be sterile and stunted. Most of my friends and others I know, even my coworkers, know I have a blog, but they don't know what it is or where. There are a few who know, but I don't think ANY of them actually read it. And I'm grateful for that; for if they did, I'd become self-conscious and I would likely comment only on the news or some other trite thing.

I have come to see that ultimately, my blog is not about me. Which is amazing, because I talk about myself all the time, hedonistic self-centered, vain sinner that I am.

More and more, I am finding that what I speak, others are feeling, too. My opinions are shared by others, my experiences are not unique. My pain is not my own, my triumphs are shared in the triumphs of others, and my joy is never in solitude. I have found that sometimes, by writing, I am giving others a voice, and in the end, I take a back seat to that.

I would love to see photos of my commenters and other bloggers who do not reveal themselves. But I do not want to do this in such a way that would force me to reveal myself. Because if I reveal myself, I fear not only that I would be found out by those I know and be forced to be silent out of propriety, but also that I would take the forefront...and God would no longer be glorified.

I began this blog when in the process of discernment, which has not really ended. And the moment this blog becomes more about "me" than it does about God, then it's time to hang it up. Clearly, as I write, I am speaking of myself and my own experiences. But as long as I can be anonymous, I can decrease so the Lord can increase...His works can be highlighted in my tiny soul, and in my anonyminity, no one but God knows my true self, and thus, His actions are really on center stage.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a character on stage before the world, my own name in neon lights. Now, I want to be in the orchestra pit, hidden deeply under the stage, playing note by note, contributing to the whole, while above me, the name of Christ headlines...and my job is only to point to Him.

13 comments:

RJW said...

A wonderful post. I enjoy reading your thoghts and reflections. I go to Fr. Eric's parish. I commen.d your spirituality. But i also like saurkraut

Adoro te Devote said...

RJW ~ Thanks, glad to see you! I'd love to attend Fr. Erik's parish one day. And if y'all want saurkraut...I'm willing to cook it for you, especially if it makes me fast!

JustMe said...

You're right-- once the name/person is revealed, it seems it is no longer the Lord Who is increasing.. Also, one's name could end up being forever cached right where one doesn't want to be seen/thought of as supportive.

I have a desire to see who-all everyone is, too -- and have met numerous souls in person -- but I also have a desire to not see who-all everyone is. It seems to me that this being online is a spiritual experience; I don't think it was meant to be other than that.

adoro said...

JustMe ~ Hmm...that's the very first time someone has suggested that being online was meant to be spiritual! I think that the internet is what we create it to be, and we have a responsibility to put good stuff out there to help combat all the bad. But I don't think it necessarily makes it spirital.

There are many people I would LOVE to meet, and perhaps one day that will happen; perhaps not. All according to God's plan. What it's done for me is to make the world seem a little smaller, bringing to the forefront the words of one of our Church Fathers who described Christians as citizens of Heaven but pilgrms on earth. One of these days I must post the section of his letter - it's beautiful!

JustMe said...

Oh, I'm absolutely convinced the world wide web is the Holy Spirit's idea. He's rounding up His pilgrims..can we think of any better way, short of the Parousia? Of course, the odd demon here and there hijacks the plan for lusts and hatreds, etc., but you know, suddenly one knows Catholics in Indonesia, Russia, Spain, Italy, heck, even in California. It's a plan, I tell ye. :-)

Adoro te Devote said...

LOL! I LOVE being in contact with so many awesome people throughout the world. It really does make the world seem smaller and more united. :-)

JustMe said...

True story: One night years ago I was in a Catholic chat room, and a woman "whispered" me something, and then said, "If I told you who this is, you'd fall over." I said I had just duct-taped myself to the chair, and to go ahead. It's not a name I knew then, which made her roar with laughter, but many of us would know it, now--Natalie Portman!

That chat room was the same in which I met one of the men taking care of Fr. Hardon in his final days. We daily talked of many things about Father, not least of all his last "baby" - the Marian Catechist program.

It has indeed been interesting.
:-)

adoro said...

I LOVE Natalie Portman...makes me wanna watch "Where the Heart is" again. (Have you ever seen that movie?) She seems like she would be such a sweetheart. I didn't realize she was Catholic...is she?

I have to wonder if many of us have actually spoken with "celebrities" or their close associates unawares. I think if I were a celeb, I'd likely go "undercover" so as to be able to interact with people naturally...never really considered how the internet does indeed allow such a thing to happen.

How cool that you got to chat with her and Fr. Hardon's caregivers. I've got no such claims, as far as I know. Well, perhaps that's not entirely true...I have been contacted by a couple Catholic authors after I had mentioned their work. And that's cool, too. Nothing like having someone you highly respect drop you a line out of the blue!

Hidden One said...

"STOP LAUGHING!"

No.

That said... I have nothing new to say.

Dominic said...

Wow, this was, like, 5 posts in one. TOO many things to comment on.
But, ok...I DID go over to UKOK and gave her a link to my photo on my site.
And, I know what you mean about having a "pen name", because you can never be too careful. I, too, have had my share of inadvertent craziness, so I use my confirmation name because it really means a lot to me.
When you were a teenager, you wanted to be an actress? I wanted t be a priest. Life can be funny sometimes, especially when we were young.

Vincenzo said...

"I didn't realize she was Catholic...is she?"

She's Jewish.

angelmeg said...

I don't use my name or the names of my husband or children on my blog. Although if someone wanted to dig they could find out my name since I link to posts on another websight where I write essays in my own name.

I began not using my name at my husband's request, part for safety (and part to allow him plausible deniability I think) and part to teach our kids not to put personal information out there for the world to see.

Having actually googled myself (you should try it sometime) I know that there is a wealth of information about my real name out there because of essays I have posted on other sites and work I have done for the diocese, but what can a girl do?

I understand completely and will never use someone's real name unless they tell me that they want it used.

I consider some of my blogging friends to be as close or closer than some of my flesh and blood aquaintances.

adoro said...

Angelmeg ~ About googling my real name. I had written the following under "Pseudonyms" above:

I have actually Googled my real name, and the the only thing I found was actually my race scores in an Alpine GS (Giant Slalom) from a local league a few years ago. Sadly, it wasn't even my best time!

It's a long post though, so you likely missed it. :-)

I've been very careful about using my name online. Even my phone number was unlisted for so long (because of my previous job) and there are so many people with my name that I couldn't find a single match to me. That makes me very happy. I used to use google all the time in my investigations and dug up all knds of relevant info on the people that were the subject of the investigations. (Things like criminal complaints, court documents, etc.)

The only time I've used real names here is other bloggers who write under their own names.