I was too mentally fatigued to open my computer and work for my second (or at times, my third) job, so I simply sat in a chair and closed my eyes for a few moments. Like many of our generation, I was unable to make ends with a single full-time job and found myself moonlighting in all manner of ways. Your apartment becomes a hotel, your car becomes a taxi, your personal time becomes a freelancer’s schedule, and all the while, older generations call you lazy.

There is no shame in feeling burnt out. Modern young-adults-of-late-capitalism work longer hours in less healthy environments than did any generation before them not bound to actual slavery. Further, most modern work takes place in the mind, seldom exercising the body. The brain does not have muscles that can expand in the same way the limbs can, and it is no surprise that it will often crack if not attended to.

It can be argued, to humor any boomers that may be reading this, that part of our poor economic condition can be attributed to living beyond our means. Prior to the post-war American economic boom, no one save the truly wealthy lived a single family, let alone a single man, to a house. Yet the breakdown of societal ties directly caused by the social upheavals of the 1960’s often leaves us without a choice in the matter, like so much else in modern life. Especially in a time when so many of us are transplants, traveling all over one’s country or even further for work, we often have no choice but to go in alone. At least in the beginning.

I suspect that in previous eras, it was at least somewhat easier to form genuine bonds when arriving in a new place. Friendships could be struck at work, community found at church, and romance anywhere in between. Our addiction to screens (and just overall mental exhaustion) has made this more difficult in the modern day, though it is certainly not an insurmountable condition. The main trouble for me is 1) getting through the electric shields around myself and those around me and 2) having the courage to do so.

It seems that I can never keep a conversation going with a stranger (especially a good looking female one) because of the exhausting inauthenticity of it. Or I’m a coward. Perhaps both.

I suspect we can all sense the miserable fakeness, the all-encompassing superficiality, of the modern culture, but we are so immersed in it we can often forget there are true alternatives. The modern materialistic world is—when you really get to the bottom of it—purely nihilistic. It believes in nothing, not even the momentary emotional and dopamine-hit escapism it constantly strives to be filled with. These are just nodes along the path to oblivion.

Even if we are to use purely utilitarian psychological and sociological arguments for the benefit of religious life, it is still undoubtedly superior to the modern malaise. People with a genuine belief in higher power(s) tend to live longer, live healthier, and just aren’t as fucking miserable as the rest of us. Even if you, in your heart of hearts, believe there is nothing after this, what good does it do living accordingly? Is it not better to fill your days with uplifting activity, rather than the decay-facilitating habits we otherwise turn to? Drugs, pornography, alcohol, fornication, and tobacco only speed up our own entropy.


The now-lukewarm coffee cup (“something else : )” written on it) was still looking at me when I opened my eyes. I wasn’t ready to answer its challenge yet, so I shifted my gaze to my bookshelves instead.

To some, a library can be a burden. A few books can represent freedom, a chance to escape from the modern world, using them like tickets to anywhere the imagination can conceive of. But many books can serve as a barrier between you and the outside world. When you’re constantly invoking quotes and figures for all of life’s circumstances, you are no longer seeing life through your own eyes.

Hardcover books in particular represent this latter condition. They are usually sedentary items, meant to be kept as objects but not necessarily to be read. I have few of these, mostly novels I bought secondhand. Most of my collections consists of battered paperbacks, covered in notes I made over the years. No bibliophile would be impressed with my little corner, yet every book here is precious to me.

Having little disposable income makes me value each book as an individual, not only for their contents, but for what they draw to mind when I look at them. Each is a memento of the time and place where I acquired it. Here is my first collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories, who so inspired my imagination as to make me start writing in the first place. Here is a French book on medieval cathedrals, which first made me think of history as a living thing in which we can still take a part. The past is not lost to us. It is possible, even now, to paraphrase a certain French author of the early 20th century, to undertake the pilgrimage, to speak to the stones and to question them. It is possible to learn their language, which speaks alike to the humblest and most cultured hearts. Bypassing all the academic nonsense which has cluttered the modern mind; the buildings—the still-standings works of our ancestors’ hands—testify to us how their lives truly were, conveying all their ideas, tendencies, and beliefs, offering guides to which we can refer without fear. We can still access and interact with the world of our fathers if we know where, and how, to do so.

Over there is my children’s edition of Arthurian legends, still in my care since middle school, in which I so often imagined myself as a knight of the round table. It led me to picture my town as the modern layer over an ancient land, over which heroes once rode in armor and chainmail, doing battle with trolls and orcs. A better time all around. At the end of the shelf is a more recent addition: The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church by Russian emigre Fr. Vladimir Lossky, which made faith make sense to me for the first time, and was life-changing in more ways than one.

Each book has been a friend to me in its time. But, like old friends, they can get pushed to the back of the shelf by more recent arrivals. Some of my books stand hidden behind a framed picture of my ex and I on a summer trip several years ago. Others lie behind a drinking horn I picked up at the highland games a year or so after that. Another portion are behind my icon of St. Tikhon, whose work often helps bring my head out of the clouds and back to my responsibilities in this life.

Responsibilities such as what to do about my loneliness and timidity.


For all installments of “The Sins We Remember Fondly,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2