Wonderful Events with the Holy Spirit – Father Theologos12 June 2022
Small Mistakes – Great Sins!17 June 2022
In an interview of Sorin Gadola conducted by Father Theologos, he explains from his own experience what the problems of today’s youth are and the trials they have regarding the influence of Western and Eastern cultures. A very natural interview in which Sorin, as the founder of the famous youth music festival Untold, gives us a lot of information.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us! Amen.
FT: We have Sorin with us today. Sorin Gadola. Very many people know who he is. You can search on the Internet to see his story. In any case, I will go very directly into the subject, since his story is known, we will not repeat it. You should know that he is someone who knows very well the problems of young people and this is what we want to focus on today and I have some questions prepared for him here.
These questions, as I have told him before, are just guides so that we can see how we can make today’s youth better.
Very briefly, Sorin knows the current music very well, [and] as I said, the young people of today. He is at this time in Orthodoxy and has a lot to tell us on this topic.
So first of all, I’m going to ask Sorin at the beginning, what would be the biggest difference, Sorin, in your change for the better? How do you see it, make a nice parallel, please, between the person you were before you came to Orthodoxy, and how you are now. What caught you, how did God find you, how did He capture you?
SG: Before, I believed and was convinced that evil meant good. More specifically, I can say that [there was] a confusion combined with a gram of spirituality, with ambition, with self-will, even a little chaos or more in some stages, I considered this to be a good spiritualism and worthy to follow, and now things for me are much clearer. That is, I know clearly, for most of the time (since I am not the most enlightened) but most of the time I clearly know if I step wrongly either in the moment or afterwards and what the good is. I repeat, this is often. Before, there was chaos.
FT: It was chaos… And I think this is a problem of many young people today, don’t you think? That is, lots of young people are exactly in this situation. I think that today’s youth… even though some of us, even within Orthodoxy, we like to demonize young people, I think young people aren’t that demonic, let’s be serious.
They are searching! What do you think are the searchings of young people, especially today?
SG: Well, you can very easily fall into chaos when… I will give some examples…
FT: Yes, sure.
SG: …not necessarily from my life. You are left at home and the parents are preoccupied with something else. You stay for a long time in an environment and with an entourage which prefers alcohol, cigarettes and more. Or you spend all day in movies and you create another reality for yourself… In your head, I mean.
FT: Your own universe.
SG: Your own universe, and the moment you start to feel that you seem to be better in that different universe, respectively, [in the] chaos, we can go deeper into this subject later, because I think there’s a lot that can be said… you will want more and more chaos.
With a crumb of a different dimension/chaos, you’re going to want more and more chaos. It charges you, it feels like it is charging you, it feels like, “Come on, it’s not as bad as others said, it’s actually good, look how many benefits there are, how many advantages [there are] in this slightly different dimension!”
FT: Ah, so kind of… So the young person truly is looking for the good, they want to look for the good, but it’s a type of delusion, they have no experience, something like that, don’t you think?
SG: Yes. Yes. The young person is looking for something great!
FT: Heaven! God! An example.
SG: That’s very straight to the point, but maybe many young people, like how I was, want something grander… in essence, yes, obviously [they are searching] for heaven. But others would say, “Spare me with this heaven stuff… I’m looking for something, I know there’s something more than that, I know there’s more than…”
SG: Yes, that “something”, the universe, “Something I know about.” These were the discussions between us, young people, and we know that today this is the way things go.
FT: And in fact, it’s a form of rebellion if I’m not mistaken, because of the lack of examples, right?
SG: Well, that’s why I was saying chaos, because it is very easy to fall into, let’s say a concept powered by the movie X, Y, Z, that at some point forms a concept for you, by various songs which form a different concept for you, and we see that pretty much all have the same concept of liberation and here I have to speak from my experience…
FT: Yes, yes… SG: Quote unquote experience, because I too have tasted for a very long time this “freedom”…
FT: Libertinism, yes…
SG: Yes, exactly. And in fact, I was more and more subjugated, more and more… the word ‘slave’ comes to me, but others would say, “Yeah right, you’re a slave, what do you know, have you gone mad, what are you talking about?” But people…well I won’t speak about people, but in my case it was very clear that when I was falling into a bad, harmful habit, a vice, whatever it was, I would end up loving it.
SG: I would get to the point where it would just be me with [the vice], I didn’t need anything else.
FT: It was actually a kind of idol for you, a god.
SG: It was even more… yes, it was everything. And even if I was alone. And here people should know what I am referring to when I say vice. It can also be a movie and something imagined…
FT: Any dependency.
SG: A meditation, any dependency, yes.
FT: So today, young people are very dependent and I was impressed by what you said that the starting point is that young people were left alone and that they were exposed to a vitiated environment permeated by alcohol, tobacco and so on. So they had no examples.
So I think that all the problems of young people today, the dependency of young people today, stems from the lack of virtue in the environment they are in, first of all in the family, and two, from their loneliness. That is, parents leave their youth to their own devices and when I say to their own devices, I don’t like this expression, because that implies a kind of guilt thrown on young people, but the young people aren’t to blame, the parents are.
Young people must indeed be free, they must have their freedom to develop, but they must be with their parents. Parents, love your children! This is very is very important, for parents to love their children. And I think parents, for money, for career, for a lot of things — I don’t want to judge parents either — I think that they really do leave their children very alone. And then, the children, because of their inexperience, seek heaven where it is not and in a way they should not. I think that’s the big problem.
It’s true that it’s very easy to demonize young people, like, “Why are you doing that? Why do you go there? Why do you listen to that music?” Alright, ok… But maybe these parties, this entertainment, this music, fill a gap? Don’t you think that…?
SG: [These things] promise a lot. You get the impression that it fills a lot of voids and to a tangible and concrete extent, it does fill a void. Because when you feel depressed, if I can use that word, or anxious or you have some panic attacks and you hear music or you put some on and you calm down and you say, “Well, look, it’s a remedy!” Nice! Bam! Handy. From there to… And that is, in my opinion, the good side, the constructive side of music, let’s say, but there’s a very fine line [between that] and rebellion and [being against] everyone…
But I wanted to say one more thing that I think happens regarding young people and parents, or between the two concepts of influence in everyone’s lives: School, for me, and I say it straight, bored me terribly. And I think that for many young people, it’s so boring… If there is something to break your enthusiasm for life, for living, that spark…
FT: That momentum, that spark…
SG: Boom! Of course there are also good teachers. I do not want to attack teachers, nor the educational system. This is by no means my message, but the direct influence…
Parents think, “Well, he’s good, he goes to school.” No! It’s not like that anymore. Dad went to an extraordinary school for him and he thought (same with my mom), that’s it’s enough, that it’s very good if the child goes to school and that a big part of the hole, as you mentioned this word, is filled. And we, from grades 5-6 when the wheels started turning in our heads, for some in the right direction, for me in a less right direction, but many have their wheels turning not necessarily in the right direction, [and think] “Well, what’s this? Is this school, is this what life is…?”
And after that, I quickly move forward in life, you get a job and you say, “Well, from 9 to 5, is this what a job is? Is this work?” So it wasn’t enough that… alright let’s not say 12 years, 8 years of school… actually, we have to count more than 12 years [of school] as there’s university… I am so bored of [school] and then the work part comes… And then beer, tobacco, parties, movies, are very handy digital movies as well as the movies in your head, if we go into other practices, meditations, ceremonies… they all come very, very handy; to taste the chaos. And it’s surprising that the chaos in the moment, spontaneously, gives you a type of meaning.
You say, “I feel better.” It’s like this entire 12 year boredom of school, job and so on, makes it seem cooler on this side [of the vices].
FT: Yes. So it’s about a lot of conformity, a lot of boredom and the young person wants to get rid of the boredom. And you found this escape, the real escape from boredom in Orthodoxy, in fact.
FT: And I have seen this, that the real escape from boredom is only in Orthodoxy.
Why do you think most of the priests or teachers, and I’m not just referring to school teachers, but also to parents, priests, even school teachers — fail to get young people out of their boredom?
SG: I think we cannot get with the times, or we do not realize how fast the times are changing. Ten years ago Facebook was mocked, “What do you see there? “You’re on Facebook too, huh?” Five years ago, if people unfriended someone, if they deleted their friend from the list, they no longer greeted each other. So it was a thing that validated your life as much as possible… Three years ago Instagram started catching on in Romania “Dude, what’s going on with this Instagram?” People have, especially those under 35 years old, already moved on to Instagram. Their examples are on there.
FT: Good God forbid it! Yes.
SG: And now we’ve been seeing for a year now, a year and a half, TikTok has been in force.
FT: So I’ve been a programmer for 30 some years, and TikTok beats me. So brethren, we’re talking about such an unleashing of superficiality… Mother of God! What is this TikTok?
SG: Well, for me it’s the platform on which I take the most swearing, because I still have an account, but TikTok started with entertainment, dancing (didn’t really interest me…) but for young people… — dancing, music, I told you it’s a drug [remedy] given at the right time. They don’t even realize it. They just liked a song, they got out of that state they were in: “Wow! That means it makes sense for me.” So that’s how TikTok started. That is how young people were caught up by it. And I do not necessarily say that it is absolutely negative because it also has some good sides, I do not want to completely cancel it…
FT: Yes, well, always, the young person is looking for something good, and finds something else.
SG: Exactly! And somehow on that road paved with good intentions…
FT: Yes, yes, the road to hell is paved with good intensions…
SG: And on the other hand, now TikTok has began to gain a more useful context, like Instagram, as well as Facebook, as YouTube, each with their own segment [of the population] TikTok has the youngest, but also many from the countryside, who get bored.
At some point 5-6 years ago — we have touristic project in Maramures — and I saw our shepherd at that time…
FT: Shepherd? SG: Yes, he was looking on Facebook….
FT: Oh, so he was constantly doing this… [scrolling]
SG: Continuously. Our [traditional] shepherd…
FT: Shepherd with sheep right?
FT: Mother of God!
SG: It struck me, and hurt me but I am not saying it in a negative sense, but in a contemplative sense, maybe that’s rich to say [“contemplative”] but maybe not… like, “Man, the world is changing!” Since this is where we started from, I tried to answer in this way, the world is changing fast.
FT: Yes, yes, very fast. The world is changing very quickly and I think that teachers, meaning parents, teachers, influencers, whoever, no longer keep up…
SG: They don’t keep up, they can’t keep up with it.
FT: The priests do not keep up either, that is, the Church…
SG: But I think that the teacher in each of us, so to speak, since I think we all have potential there, especially as we get older, as long as we don’t give innovation a chance, 2, 3, 4 years are enough to appear to young people like grandparents…
SG: “What, you don’t know what TikTok is? This guy doesn’t have Instagram, did you hear that!? What world do you live in?”
SG: This is the language of young people, but also 35 — 40 year old’s. If we are talking about Facebook and YouTube, these are already in everybody’s vocabulary.
FT: Yes, I understand.
SG: I think that 99 percent of people have this app, whether they’re in a village, whether they have a smartphone or not, if they don’t, their child has it and introduces them to this world.
And then, things go so fast, and we — since I am starting from the question of where the chaos came from, where the rupture came from — if the parent doesn’t give importance to the universe that the young man has created, whether through TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, it really doesn’t matter.
FT: That is, to become a little humble. To say well, yeah, look…
SG: Lots should, compared to what is practiced…
FT: Yes, yes.
SG: There was an innovation, an app see what attracts your child there, be it a video game, or an information or dating platform, what attracted him to it?
SG: Because if you quickly dismiss it, you will quickly get dismissed right back.
FT: Exactly, yes. The law of action and reaction, right?
SG: Yes, in my opinion.
FT: Yes. Tell us a little about… The tablet has turned off, I will open it later, as the discussion went forward very well. Tell us a little about your experiences with shamanism, drugs and so on.
SG: Well, what I was saying about vices… Vices for me, drugs for me, generally were even legal. As long as you are addicted to alcohol, the most relevant one… But also addicted to chocolate, and to processed foods, and to semi-prepared foods. I observed myself a lot, through my evolution and rather, my involution, and I think I got a taste of so much adrenaline and a lot of sense through all sorts of foods which my parents [gave me]. My parents wanted to give the best product to their child, and I say this without hesitation, as I know that it was so.
Basically, when it appeared in Cluj, Metro, the pretzel, the sweet bread.
FT: From pretzel to…
SG: It was a sweet bread with poppy seeds… So it was after communism and after those specific [communist] products with the glass milk bottles which, in my opinion, was very good quality, to the new foods, for the people who could afford them, considered revolutionary stuff. A bunch of semi-prepared foods, a bunch of foods with a lot, a lot, of sugar. I even looked a few weeks ago… So I’m going to keep answering the question, with vices…
FT: Yes, yes…
SG: And there was a product, there is no point in naming it, a very well known one: 70% sugar. “Cocoa” is the name of the product. It should legally be called — apropos of vices, that’s what I want to highlight — “Sugar with Cocoa Flavor”. At 70% sugar?!
And then, if we get an adrenaline rush and a sense of meaning from that food, from that action, and that’s how we grow up, while the parents…especially at that time there wasn’t information, there wasn’t Google, there was no internet everywhere like there is now — the child can get a taste for that chaos or for that “Man, I want that adrenaline, that dopamine, that serotonin, that sense of meaning, of fulfillment even for two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes.
FT: So it’s about pleasure, the pursuit of pleasure that comes in time and grows.
SG: Yes, it comes very quickly to the child of this day. Of course, I also relate it to myself, especially now. So I said to you: 70% sugar, so that child is hit with cereal, cocoa, milk (in whatever state that’s in…)
FT: He should fast a little.
SG: Yes, a lot!
FT: A lot of fasting.
SG: Or if not, to refer to real food. Food comes with a bunch of stimulants, a kid is going to be [bouncing, fidgeting] like this for 10 -15 years, when he sits down, thinking “I want to live [to the max].”
FT: In a state of continuous excitation.
FT: And this leads to drugs.
SG: It’s a very easy road to absolutely any vice as vice itself is a drug.
FT: Exactly, one form of drug.
SG: And who knows? Maybe one likes to mate with another person continuously and gets to the point where that is all they think about. Why? That gives him a sense of meaning, of fulfillment in the moment, for however long it lasts…
SG: Even the thought takes you there. If you live with that hard stuff, with that adrenaline for 15-20 years with that dopamine or searching for dopamine, serotonin, it is very easy to get into different vices, more tangible ones, alcohol, substances, and others.
FT: Yes, so in fact, it’s a search for pleasure, and in fact, all vices, including bodily vices, debauchery and alcohol, all these are a form of drug. All of them are.
SG: Absolutely. And I have a saying: drugs, unfortunately, have been legalized, they have some extraordinarily beautiful, colorful packaging, they have a cow on them, they have the sun, they have the grass, you think they are all swimming happily… they promise vitamins, minerals. No. Lord. On that label there are only additives — paint I call it, not food dyes, to wake people up a little to what I am talking about. Yes, they are paints. And they are exciting at the level of the nervous system and of course it affects your personality when you live like that. For children, to live this way, to develop cognitively and to understand these stimulants, 8, 10, 15 years, for as long as you consume all of this…
FT: You become a junkie, in fact.
SG: I, yes, I didn’t want to put it exactly like that, but that’s right.
FT: That’s how it is. Yes.
SG: I speak from my point of view because I know what it means. Then, of course, at 15, 18 years old when you get to your workplace, or to university and you say, “What’s this? Is this all? I want something… I’ll get out of here and get a beer or something.”
FT: And in fact, all of our civilization today, mainly Western civilization, but not only, is a civilization of junkies.
SG: Maybe that’s too much for the public to swallow…
FT: Swallow it, brethren! It’s a civilization of druggies.
SG: I think that certain substances have been normalized and legalized in our foods, in our drinks, all the way to alcohol and tobacco, substances which shouldn’t be there. Or it should say, “Be aware that it falls into another category, this is not food, it’s a stimulant.” Maybe it’s a softer [stimulant], more gradual, more passive, but you still get there.
FT: And I think that in our discussion, suddenly, the topic of fasting becomes capital. Fasting is not only because a priest said to fast I don’t know when, but suddenly, it ensures a person’s freedom and it ensures his escape from the drug. Escapement from the drug, the moment the person fasts. In fact, all the asceticism of the Church is drug detoxification.
SG: Now, I will ask you a question.
SG: I am not used to asking questions.
FT: Yes, yes, of course, ask.
SG: Agreed. Alright, so at 15 years old I start already being stimulated by video, movies, fake, processed food which hyper-stimulates me, and I hear about fasting. Well, the first days of fasting or maybe weeks, severely demoralize me. I no longer have a sense of meaning in life basically…
FT: Yes, it’s a form of withdrawal.
SG: It is.
FT: Yes, because man seeks dopamine from all these foods, going from the most “innocent” things, and ending with heavy drugs, and then, when the Church comes along, actually when God comes along, with discernment, with wisdom and says, “Stop here,” when the person stops then this problem of withdrawal arises. He seeks dopamine, seeks addiction, seeks his bondage, and then God says: “Be a little patient to escape!” And then, the person must have patience. This is faith. That is, you have to say: “Yes, I abstain for a period of ‘X’ time, and after that I will find true meaning.
SG: And at the moment when the young person wants to beat everyone up, so to speak, he doesn’t know why, but everyone is exasperating him in those moments, his loved ones should know that they are in a minefield.
FT: Yes, that’s right. Because it’s about withdrawal.
SG: And those around him have a great responsibility…
FT: Those around him, [should know] how to manage it. And I think — once again, this is one of the words we use very often tonight — this demonization of young people is not good. They must understand the young person and what he is going through, to understand what he is listening to, where he goes, and so on, and with love to try to manage him, to help him.
SG: Yes, because, here I would give the following analogy; You give the child something sweet, very sweet, after that you scold him for not going to sleep. You also give him a video game which, it is scientifically known, agitates him, his system, his thinking, everything…
FT: Those games hyper-excite him and teach him vices, because I have not seen a game in which one can show mercy, I have seen a lot of games in which you shoot.
SG: Yes, now they are all kinds. The big producers have made their range of games, and you do what they put in front of you…there are such subtleties there. But you give [the child] something sweet, you give him the video game and after that you suddenly take them away. And the child, as I was saying by analogy, throws himself on the floor and starts crying and behaves erratically. And you say, ” What a disobedient child!” But the poor kid isn’t to blame that much…
FT: He doesn’t have much guilt, or he is at fault but it’s not entirely on him.
SG: It’s not completely his fault.
FT: Yes. It’s a very complex thing. And beyond that, I think, alright, we say, “You’re not going to do that, you’re not going to do the other thing, you’re not going to go there, you’re not going to the party…” Alright. What do you replace it with? That is, I believe that actually, parents, must by their example, through all their behavior, offer something instead to the child. SG: If there is no example, everything is done for!
FT: Yes everything. That is, the child needs to know: “I need to do this, I need to learn, I need to pray, I need to read.” Brethren, there are books, you should read!
FT: But if he doesn’t see this in his parents and doesn’t learn from someone that this is truly good, the child will say, “But why should I listen to you?” Okay, you’re going to say that it’s not good for the child to say something like that, that it’s insolence. Correct! But you must give him proof that the child truly needs to listen to you.
SG: Yes, because otherwise he will think [you are] just like that teacher who only speaks and is not curios about me as a secondary school student or wherever and only dictates and asks, “Are you done? Who learned what I dictated to you? No? Sit down!” So you are perceived, I believe, from the perspective of the child, since I am not talking from the perspective of the parent, I think you are perceived by the child, by the young person and even an adult as, “You’re like that teacher at school, who doesn’t care, only speaks.” If you’re not an example yourself in everything and this is very hard to do… Here, you know better, the spirit of God speaks for Itself in man, it inspires man through His uncreated energy, it transforms man and this becomes visible in his appearance before he speaks, right?
FT: Yes, yes. And again, what I’m thinking though, I think parents should pray more for the children. They should pray more for the children because if they don’t put God in the center, on their own it is very hard, by themselves it is very hard, and it’s actually impossible… Because often this temptation arises that parents and people in general [think] they can solve their problems on their own. They do not escape their loneliness. They do not get rid of their loneliness. Prayer is needed for a person to escape loneliness, hell is loneliness.
SG: Yes, I can confirm the last part and the first too, but especially the last, from my own experience. Basically, I see things like this: if the parent…. I will say what you said differently, if the parent does not try to see God in the video game his child is playing, in the meditation that his child started practicing, in the application that… Ok, clearly, prayer is the number 1 thing to do, but number 2, in this spirit of prayer, and in God, try to approach him.
FT: Of course: Let us be clear, you pray, you pray, you pray, but the action? And prayer is action, but you must have a very concrete connection with your child, you cannot say “I pray and give you money and you fend for yourself.” That’s loneliness.
SG: Correct. Because if my child, the young person, practices meditation — again I speak from the perspective of the child — and [the parent says] “That’s not good, because Orthodoxy says no”, when again, maybe in a minimal form of meditation [the child] disconnects from something and solves his depression in the moment and says: “Wow, what a remedy, what truth!” And for you say to him, “It’s not good” as a father, as a confessor, as a brother, as a friend…
FT: …It cuts off that relationship with him.
SG: He will tell you, “You are taking away the remedy that I have found with so much difficulty? I mean, I did serious research until I found it.” And then, maybe, the parent, the confessor, the friend [could say], “Oh, you meditate, why do you meditate? And what do you feel? “Do you want to do it together maybe or…?” Maybe this is too much of a minefield, but I am saying my opinion, with God in mind, maybe it can be resolved. As long as in one way or another the other does not show his interest in a real way…
FT: Yes, love!
SG: Love, in other words, exactly. There is no other way, [otherwise] you’re exactly like that secondary school teacher who didn’t feel like having me around.
FT: In Buddhism, in shamanism, in yoga, in these types of things, did you find love?
SG: I found a lot of texts about love, I found a lot of hugging, forgiveness. I also found this idea of selflessness which in Orthodoxy is self-denial, I found mindfulness — very good, very practical, very useful, but I’ll immediately conclude all of this, in Orthodoxy there is the state of watchfulness which from my point of view is much more profound and takes you to the essence, not only symptomatically, it also leads you to the cause. And I found a lot of similarities between Orthodoxy and all those practices that you mentioned. I’ve practiced them for many years and I’m the type that goes all in. The hardest thing is being all in in Orthodoxy. [In Orthodoxy] you have to be humble all the way and hard things like that but it puts you to serious work and I like that. It’s clearly a good direction for me.
FT: Yes, so you mean to say that the others have certain parts of the truth, but they stop somewhere and Orthodoxy has the fullness.
SG: It has that, yes. And I could argue that, let’s put it this way, the difference between mindfulness — I think everyone knows what it means — you are present, you are omnipresent, there is no past, no future, thoughts are your illusions, your concept…
FT: So you are now in the present.
SG: Yes. Mindfulness, being present. And on the watchfulness side, here I am not at the measure of being able to speak, but I will tell it as I began to understand it, because I like to read from the Holy Fathers, [watchfulness is] all of these things [of mindfulness] but with God in mind, not yourself! Not you! [Not like] “Wow what have YOU found?”
FT: Exactly. Selfishness. The great problem of selfishness and loneliness.
SG: Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted to say. Because even if there is forgiveness, selflessness and so on in the other practices, without wanting to, involuntarily, you get this, “I am starting to get the hang of this thing!”
FT: Thinkin “I’m great… I’m a guru…”
SG: This spiritualism makes you start to…
FT: And in fact, you end up being alone again. SG: Yes, that’s right, that’s correct. Until feeling alone, you get to the guru, if you are a female you may have a lot of problems in this respect…
SG: Physically because it is practiced… and I know what I am saying.
If you (are) a boy… well, everything is practiced… but until you feel lonely, there is a lot of promise, a lot… And what do they promise you? “Do you want to become like me? To be great and enlightened too… and to tell the other suckers how things are?”
FT: Yes, that’s it, yes. This is why God is capital, because God takes us out of the very tight frames of our egotism and thus gives us the possibility of love, of the love of the other, of the truth.
Even if certain things at first appear as being good, after that we still do not get out of the very tight frames of our egotism and that grinds us, it ends us…
SG: Regarding what you have said, at some point, I had a thought like this: I practiced all these things — again, I was all in — in the jungle, in ceremonies and rituals and various practices…
FT: All in, with all your heart….
SG: Exactly, yes and, at some point with all my despair. So I was there. And at a certain point, after a long time, I asked myself the question, and today I think it was from God: “Well, did all these practices make you kinder to your grandmother?”
FT: For example.
SG: …To your grandmother who sees you, and is a person of integrity, who says something and tears you apart at some point… She peers at you with one eye, and tells you something like, not just the synthesis of the day, but of five years, or of your life. FT: Yes, yes… Of your life.
SG: And after that, to your parents: “Well, did [those practices] make you better, more patient, more…?” Many would say: “Yes, yes!” [Puffing up chest]. But at some point, this promise is lost, this illusion, that enthusiasm towards spiritualism is lost, I am not saying it’s just auto-suggestion, I am not saying that, but a lot is lost. At some point you get tired and there is no more [energy] — in Orthodoxy, the word grace is used — in other terms [since] I also try to speak for those we are less Orthodox so as not to forget from where I came, (I do not want to make myself appear as someone who lives out Orthodoxy to a large extent as I do not, unfortunately) the energy is lost [in the other practices].
FT: In Orthodoxy there is also the term “energy” but the main difference is that energy in Orthodoxy is the personal energy of a loving God. While for easterners, this energy is something impersonal and incapable of love.
So really, in the east, Buddhism and so on, due to the fact that what is felt there is not the brilliance, the energy of a living person, you wear out. Because man functions on love, the same way a car functions on gas, man functions on love. The existential fuel of man is love. And when love does not exist, man extinguishes.
SG: By the way of what you’re saying, I was exactly where the trend today is increasingly stronger. For me, when I would hear about love — to smile, to give a hug, hallelujah…
FT: …”To give a hug”
SG: We sing together Kumbaya. But I found out, or I began to find out (you see the reflex inside me: “I found out, I already know!”) I began to find out that love is much more than that and there is a part that is like that, apropos to the authenticity I found in Orthodoxy, part of it is like that, but not just love with smiles on the face…
SG: Ok, no blaming, no beating someone up, or blaming with love or constructive blaming, ok, it’s very welcome, while in the other religions I didn’t really find this. I mean [I found] “Okay, all is good brother, come…”
FT: In Orthodoxy there is a total, personal, offering of oneself.
SG: It is personal. And you keep… This is what I liked about other monks that I saw, and about my spiritual father… I saw: gurus, shamans, Taoists. I had, so to speak, the “luxury,” of one on one ceremonies, practices, I had access to their secrets… After that, at some point, the good God gave me, I believe and say this, in my grandmother’s village, it wasn’t for nothing that I mentioned her, a monk, respectively my spiritual father now, who was like… Now, forgive me for saying it like this…
FT: Yes, yes.
SG: I saw him [and thought] “Look at this guy. Another monk. I am tired of this.” At the time I was over everyone, the gurus, the teachers, because I saw what each was capable of, as I was very close to them, I was with their families, I’m talking about a period of 7 to 8 years. I was tired of their hypocrisy, even if even today, partially, it would be a lie to say that I am in touch with them, but I am completely open to them and I’m not trying convert them, but I try to love them.
FT: Yes, exactly. We love everyone.
SG: And I let love do its job, more than that what do I know? And all this took a certain form in my head: guru, teachers, Taoist masters, yogis, Buddhists, shamans and so on. Then I saw this guy with his monk clothing in the village, You realize, I was like… “PFFT!” But since I would be praising myself in front of others by my attitude that I was open, that I am outside the box, that I have experience… “Well give him a chance too!” But I was fighting with myself: “Don’t give him a chance, he is certainly destitute, he’s bigoted or…” And he put himself next to me — to put it briefly — and he taught me so much, without saying anything, no useful word or teaching.
FT: Glory to the Lord! Only through his presence.
SG: Through his presence and later I began to understand: “Well that’s humility, that’s how humility speaks to you.” By his laughter, I said that he was naive, but later I saw that it was a deeper thing, it was more childlike, more cultivated…
FT: The Grace of God.
SG: God’s grace… Yes, by childlike, I mean innocent and yes, even now… I can’t say that it shakes me up, [but] I cannot talk about this very quickly, you know?
FT: Yes. You get emotional.
SG: Yes. And again, my mind was full of prejudice. “What does this guy want? He wants my money. He’ll surely come to me with some life stories now, and…” And nothing I thought about him… he wasn’t trying to convert me. He didn’t try to tell me what’s good, what’s bad. He did not try anything with me. Just tried and succeeded — glory to God! — in giving me love.
SG: And not just once, but many times.
FT: And so, you came back to life. Because love is the existential fuel of the human soul.
SG: Yes. And my mind was trying to find, I repeat, this is very important to make myself understood, to find all the problems with him. Especially a person who comes from that direction [of other practices], he is seasoned, knows the hypocrisy of the masters, knows the business in the middle. I had, and have, an eye for that, [I’m] very critical. As someone who has been through all that, I’m experienced.
FT: Yes, yes. Stan the experienced [character in a Ion Creanga story] – Sorin the experienced.
SG: Yes, yes, exactly. So my mind couldn’t fit him anywhere. He started to make me question, and I think that’s the way to God, where I came from. I don’t know other roads; To make you question things. Don’t think that you’ve seen that monk or that priest or friend, or relative, or mother and that you can label them, or place them in that topology. He was making me question things. And after a few years, God started working with that question.
FT: Yes. So what could Orthodox people, priests, teachers do to be closer to the youth, to be listened to by the youth? More love, right? To be an outlet of love for them.
SG: As all the Holy Fathers say: humility, love… that has worked for me who was so far… Like I told you, in the concrete case of my spiritual father and after that of other monks, there were some discussions… FT: Simple ones! SG: Simple. Far from theology, far from what is good, what is bad.
FT: He did not come to say to you, “Come, I will love you”?!
SG: No. “Come on, I’ll show you that you do not know, let me show you what love is! Where have you been all this time? Come, you do not know.” Simple stuff, I don’t know… the Spirit and the energy and everything… I told you, the smile. I received this from other monks at some point, at Sihla. We were at a monastery on a rock. I liked it. I also saw temples like that, in Nepal. [I thought] “Ok Sihla seems to have something going for it too, something mystical, I like it.”
FT: Is your spiritual father from there? From Sihla?
SG: No, no! My spiritual father is from Dancu village, the commune of Ghiresu.
FT: What’s his name?
SG: Monastery of St. Panteleimon. [His name is] Cleopa.
FT: Father Cleopa. May the good God bless him!
SG: God help him!
FT: May the good God help him!
SG: And in Sihla, this is what I wanted to say, is that I met other monks, and they worked on me differently, which was not with that childlike laughter. In the words of a close friend, they chafed me. When he saw me, the monk I’m talking about, I think he has been there [at Sihla] for 27 years, about 3 years ago he said, “Look at this arrogant one! Aren’t you ashamed of this glass full of arrogance?” So these were his first words.
FT: Glory to the Lord! So simple things that are loving. Let’s return a little to young people.
SG: But he said it to me with love.
FT: With love, yes, yes. If there isn’t love, there is nothing. If there is no love, there isn’t anything, and because of this we all have to prepare in our rooms, in our heart, to be able to love others. Let us cry before God, pray so that God will give us this love so that we can love others to make them alive, like your spiritual father made you.
SG: Yes, yes. Because this is what you asked me. When my spiritual father from time to time smiled like a child, and made me question things, another monk said: “Look at yourself a little bit, seriously! Look, you are not as smart as you think you are, nor as handsome as you think. Look a little on the inside!”
FT: Yes, yes, yes.
SG: But he knew how to approach me.
SG: He knew how to approach me with that drop of love, because you don’t need a lot. It was like this, the drop fell and made a plop.
FT: Plop! Glory to the Lord! A very good expression. Yes. What I wanted to say is how could today’s youth not lead a double life? That is, on the one hand, there is the spirituality and on the other hand there is all this avalanche of other teachings? How could, or do the young people of today still have the courage to confess Christ? How could someone oppose [other teachings], someone who really wants to be in the Church or wants to be with God, what could he do to not let himself be corrupted by the corrosion of conformity?
SG: Well, I think it is according to how someone is. If one wants to confess… Here I would make a parenthesis that in the first year I too felt like being the social-divine vigilante. Very wrong. It can be too much, because at some point the entourage, however, with the good, with the bad, influences you, you take into account their opinion, especially when you are young. Whoever [confesses in this way] or is this way, should take great care.
There is another way of being that is easier to digest for the respective youth: you are an Orthodox practitioner, you have your faith, but you also have a school entourage, a college entourage, maybe a boyfriend, a girlfriend at some point who doesn’t share your ideas, maybe they are right on the other side. In this case, the best confession [of Christ] in my opinion and in my experience, is not to speak to confess Him, while you are confessing Him, through everything we have spoken of so far.
FT: So not by making yourself the teacher, but by your example, by your way of behaving.
SG: For sure!
FT: And this is what I have seen, especially because we had a website in English before and now may the good Lord help us make the one we have now in English too, we will see how God arranges things.. indeed, to speak Orthodoxy without naming it. Because sometimes it births repulsion, like, “Here comes the priest again, to preach!” No. Show the good and others will figure it out. I think in this way…
SG: These were very big words and for me they were very big, because at some point, when I was on the road towards Orthodoxy, with a lot of challenges “professionals” know, those who have experience know, you don’t feel like hearing a lot of: “The Mother of God loves you and Jesus is the Way and Salvation” because you know it, but you are defeated on all levels very badly, while it is very good to hear it from time to time, lots of times it is not good, but if we are talking about someone who isn’t even on this way to Orthodoxy, they can think: “Well, let him be, look at this fanatical, poor man.” And I think it’s very important not to confess Him while you confess Him.
FT: Exactly! Don’t you think though that young people miss God, perfection, love, of all of this? I think they have a great capacity, don’t you think?
SG: To strive for perfection?
FT: Towards perfection and towards love. I think that’s what they’re looking for everywhere and in music and in all that…
SG: Of course. Because when you hear good music, you are really in it. When you meditate and so on, you are in it. You have the drop or that moment of disconnection that many people confuse and say it’s love, but the impact of disconnection from all the miseries of your thoughts or of society is so great, real on one hand, imagined on the other, you think just that disconnection is love, but, no, here comes Orthodoxy that shows you love is something else, it’s infinite, something above..
FT: That’s right. Regarding Orthodoxy and this disconnection, what is the importance of confession to you? How do you see confession?
SG: It’s extraordinary. It’s the best thing that happened to me, I can say that, while I laugh because I hear myself as I say this. That it’s an examination of your conscience which I think is WOW. Okay [if] you meditate… I would meditate for days, that is 4, 5, 7, 8 hours sometimes in one day and then the next day again. On weekends when others wanted to go out, I was on my spiritual journey and I was sitting there in the middle of nowhere, on big trips.
FT: Those trips were also under the influence of drugs or only…?
SG: I had intervals of like half a year, 8 months, 4 months, in many periods of my life without [drugs]. And I was perfectly lucid, no alcohol, nothing. And you can start tripping out very easily, because the imagination — by the way of the desire for love that you mentioned, towards perfection — it promises so much, right?
FT: That you are omnipotent…
SG: You are omnipotent and you get things fast, fast. I mean why would you work, try to be humble, try to give love to your neighbor when you can bam! you can imagine a thing and it incites you, it charges you as you consider… But there’s another thing and this is the analogy that I wanted to make, the comparison between meditation and confession. During confession, you examine your conscience before God, I am saying it how I see it…
FT: Yes, yes.
SG: You try to see, “Alright, Sorin, what do you feel guilty about regarding your body, your mind, your soul, what do you feel guilty of before God?” Not what you “should” feel guilty about, but what do you feel [guilty about]? And as I write down some stuff, I also allow for a gram of spontaneity during confession, while examining my conscience, and it’s wonderful. I mean, I remember some things from my childhood to the present and a very beautiful work is done within confession.
On the other hand, in meditation, [which] let’s say can be compared a little bit, because you sit and observe yourself, and you can get to your childhood just like this [snaps fingers] with or without substances, you can get to all kinds of experiences and fulfilments. Of course they are incomparable [confession and meditation] but there is no [inner] work [in meditation]. And to make myself better understood, the fact that you notice this trend — I’m sure you know it, we all know it, “awareness” and “being woke”, and we all wake up.
It’s not enough to realize something, and it disappears as by miracle. Actually, on the contrary, you can make it an obsession, you can make it your trauma, you can relive things, “Ah, look at that, I was a small child and this happened to me… and my father, my uncle did not give me exactly what…” And while you think that you have disconnected, and to a certain extent you have disconnected from all that chaos and the noise of thoughts, through meditation, you can make yourself into a victim, “Look, what happened to me! I was hurt.”
FT: Yes… You victimize yourself, you can’t overcome.
SG: “I was hurt as a child, you did not take care of me…”
SG: “Friends cheated on me, betrayed me, got together with my girlfriend…” or all the problems specific to the young person, to the age. “It’s not me, others are to blame”.
And that’s just a small comparison of what it can offer you. This is why I wanted to give this example: confession not only does not give you this illusion, but the Holy Spirit works within you and…
FT: Yes, it is God’s grace and it is actually the overthrowing of this ideology of awakeness and all that. That is, there is the awareness of your problems, assuming them, and overcoming them through God.
SG: Of course! And there is also a good spiritual father to tell you at the end of confession or so on: “Alright, you said that you are not listened to by your parents but do you listen to them?” And he turns your whole universe upside-down. While in meditation, you don’t have that truly spiritual feedback. You have, “Okay, you noticed…”
FT: But no one tells you anything, you are alone.
SG: No. And you can stay there in your head… because you go through that meditative state and you can get stuck there.
SG: And through many techniques you do get stuck in those, while you could be burning them with a pencil, and saying, “Look, I forgive you, I forgive you…” and then you meet your mother and you look at her in a way like, “I know what you did, I remembered, I forgive you, but you know…”
FT: So Orthodoxy is a huge change, I think.
SG: It’s really big change. Because I’ve done all of these practices that I am talking about right now. For years. I did it for a lot longer, I have been in Orthodoxy for 3 to 4 years and other practices I have done for 8 to 10 years.
FT: Yes… Glory to the Lord! And in fact, this love brought you to Orthodoxy, the love of your spiritual father, the love of a person.
SG: The love of my spiritual father at the time when he was not yet my spiritual father, it is important to…
FT: Yes, yes, to mention it, of course.
SG: [The love of] other monks and those close to me. And here, I have to mention my wife, who was not my wife at the time, I have to mention her!
FT: May the good God bless her!
SG: God help her! She sends you her greetings.
FT: Yes? May the good God bless Diana! All my love, please pass it on…
SG: I will pass it on. She sends her greetings to you and to Father Pimen and everyone here.
FT: May God bless her!
SG: So at the time when she was not my wife, and she also gave me a drop of love… Why do I say a drop? Because I do not want to seem so hyperbolic in how I speak like, “She gave me love and wow!” — because it wasn’t like that.
FT: See that she does not hear you…
SG: Yes, she tried, but considering how many stupid things I was doing, she couldn’t take me in her arms, and say, “Well, how nice you are!” when I was all over the place and scattered. And then, from time to time, she gave me, with a pipette, as I like to say, a drop [of love]. And not that I did not deserve more, but no more than that was needed.
FT: She had patience with you.
SG: She did. Now, I’m paying for everything as I have to have more patience. I am joking I think, I hope…
FT: Remember this is being recorded.
SG: Yes, yes, but she had such patience… I can’t perceive it, honestly, the patience she had with me, I would not have had such patience with me or with anyone, unfortunately.
FT: How could you.., how do you think of helping young people? How could we help young people?
SG: Well, young people love life and I am unable to help them, you know, considering what and where I come from. I could talk more with them, (and my parents have started asking me various things) about sins — maybe it’s cliché — or about many things which they are not aware that, sooner or later, have more subtle or more treacherous consequences. I’m better at that.
FT: At talking. Like me.
SG: Yes, but about the false life, not necessarily about real life.
FT: As they say: he who knows does, he who doesn’t [know] speaks about it.
SG: Yes. And unfortunately, I didn’t get smarter, practicing so many sins. This is for everyone who is watching to know: If they think, “I am going to sin left and right and then I am going to recover and I will be the best!” It does not happen like that! It is a great waste of time, of energy, it’s possible to botch it up altogether… It’s possible to get lost in so many ways and… For me it’s a miracle that I’m alive. I told you this at some point.
FT: If it wasn’t for God, for the saints…? By the way, what about the saints?
SG: The Saints…
FT: Do you have piety towards a saint? SG: I do! Towards St. Ephraim the New.
FT: Yes? Why?
SG: Because being anchored in many vices, the Saint worked so beautifully with me! I told you at one point, that I had periods of 2, 4, 6, 8 months several times in these ten years, in which I broke up with all the vices. But there was such a fight… with sweat and blood and… at one point, since I was smoking, I would find myself often with the cigarette in the ashtray already smoked. And it’s true what they say, I look at it now…
FT: You can’t believe it.
SG: In my grandma’s words: I look at it like the ox at the new gate, how the ox looks at the new gate [disoriented].
FT: A good grandmother.
SG: Yes, very good! My mentor. So you have no control. People say that you have free will, a choice. [But you have free will] up to a certain point, when you sin a lot, from my experience, well, you no longer have [free will]…
FT: That’s right.
SG: I mean, when I found myself with a cigarette in the ashtray after eight months, and I didn’t even realize it. Terrifying right?
FT: Yes! The moment man is under the passions, he loses his freedom, in fact. He is a slave to passion.
SG: Yes, I can say that.
FT: You lived it.
SG: It is perfectly true and that’s how Orthodoxy attracted me, that’s how the saints attracted me who are very cool because of… (those from a long time ago, maybe they are too far from me)
FT: Yes, yes…
SG: But we still see various saints closer to our times, from 50, 100 years ago, and they start and speak in my language or the language of other young people…
FT: Yes, yes…
SG: And I said at one point, you really do not have freedom! It turned on many light bulbs for me. That’s what it’s like with the saints. And Saint Ephraim the New gave me a fight, several fights, struggles, [which were] defeated, but I was, first of all, not first on the horse. In my previous struggle, without practicing Orthodoxy, without saints, I was the first on the horse: “I can, I will, I…” Techniques, practices, “If I can’t, who can?” Now I was not the first on the horse, but it was St. Ephraim the New…
FT: He fought for you…
SG: Yes, because I was praying to him.
FT: He is a very good knight, you should know!
SG: Yes. If you’re watching St. Ephraim…
FT: He is watching, you should know. I think there are about 20cm between me and you and this is where St. Ephraim the New is, you should know.
SG: God help us!
FT: May the good God help us!
SG: At a certain point I believe so much in these saints… While I was praying to St. Ephraim the New, I read some of the books, testimonials, and so on, [I thought], “Oh, look, how many others have seen Saint Ephraim the New and so many miracles and so forth, and alright, saint, you do not show yourself to me…” And after that it came to me in thought: Alright, but I got away from every vice that I could not control, including alcohol, tobacco and others… And I haven’t really fought, and I’ve been clean for two years, and I am no longer the slave [of the vices] which to me is remarkable and incredible. I am no longer their slave. Not even mentally.
Okay, I have some things … but I can’t say that I am their slave, because St. Ephraim the New intervened there.
FT: Glory to the Lord! He freed you!
SG: He freed me and at the same time, he said to me in my mind: “Did you want to see, or look the job is done, how beautiful!”
FT: Yes, exactly, to be free. Glory to God! So Orthodoxy is life, it is liberation, it is unity with the saints, unity among us, it is love.
SG: Yes, it’s a clear direction. For me it was a very cool direction. By the way, hermits who started to have certain [spiritual] experiences put the emphasis on food and God… but for me, many things were too far from my mind or from my soul. But they caught me with mental health, they caught me with some of the advice they gave, get involved in physical labor, try to eat as natural as possible…
FT: Slowly And natural. Natural. Everything is natural, it’s a lifestyle. Glory to the Lord! Thank you very much. May the good God bless you! I hope that young people have learned something and implement it. I ask you to implement what Sorin told us, because he went through this. And I went through a little bit of it, I didn’t get to Sorin’s measures, so…
SG: Thank God! That you have not reached the measure of my sin.
FT: No, dear, each with his own sins! And let’s have courage! Courage — to parents, to have the courage to love, and young people to have the courage to be loved and to seek God because only in this way we get rid of loneliness. This is it. And we find our peace, we find our naturalness and we find our clarity only in Orthodoxy. Outside there is chaos. Christ or chaos!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us! Amen.
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