Praxis is the way we live the life that is indicated by our study. Study directs our praxis by suggesting certain practices, approaches, methods, strategies. This reflects the clarification and contemplation aspects of our living.
Our study directs our praxis but, in turn, praxis informs our study, suggesting new directions, methods and so forth. For example, we might read a study advocating meditation as a means of enlarging our range of compassion so we adopt a meditation practice.
This is the service aspect of our living.
In this sense, praxis and study are one movement. Each makes the other not only possible but necessary. They are unified, sort of the way you cannot separate a river from its banks.
In my own living, theory and idea – created, contained and expressed in language – are predominant. Thus, clarity and contemplation are the preferred – most comfortable, most familiar – aspects of my practice.
In my own living, praxis has been mostly relegated to effect – passive, casual, and sometimes even scorned.
For a long time I was unaware of this; then, when I became aware, I found myself struggling to right the imbalance. Often I failed; often, it was clear that I wanted to fail.
This is unhealthy. Favoring one aspect of a dynamic circularity over the other minimizes the circularity’s flow and creativity. We become less effective, which means less loving, which means less happy and peaceful.
Praxis frightens me, which is silly in one sense, since praxis is always happening anyway. It is not coherent to fear what you are already presently experiencing.
But still. Praxis cries for attention, which is to say – in this context – for intention. It wants to be executed, embodied. It wants to be brought forth and lived. What we study yearns to manifest in an embodied way that is not merely semantic and mental.
For me, my decades-long obsession with the Catholic Worker – with nonviolence, radical egalitarianism, dialogue and so forth – are the concepts that my praxis longs to breathe into being.
I have explored those topics deeply and sincerely – I have studied them closely – but my living has mostly been a poor reflection of what I have learned in that study. For the most part, I have declined to allow the two domains – study and praxis – to mingle. Rather, I have tried to keep them apart.
Again, in an important sense, that is actually not possible. We are always in praxis, however unintentionally. Thus, praxis – however feeble and unconscious – has at last reached my study and, in turn, my study – however rigidly self-contained – has finally seeped into my praxis.
A fuller and more creative unity is possible and I am at a juncture where keeping the two at a sterile distance is hard enough that I am willing to experience the utter fear of whatever it means to be intentionally praxical.
This was written on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, 2019.