Sunday, February 2, 2014
Reflections on an unexciting life, 02/02/14
I've been reading a book called An Unexciting Life by Michael Casey, who is a Trappist monk in Australia. It is a very thick book, a compendium of many scholarly essays he has written over the years about the Rule of St. Benedict. At this point I have so many post-it arrows pointing to passages that in self-defense I decided to write posts on as many of them as I can in order to process my thoughts and get rid of the post-its without compunction (Wow! I used the word compunction in an actual sentence!)
The name of the book is taken from the reality that the monastic life is deliberately unexciting in its physical consistency, so that the focus can be on the richness of the inner life. His point is that those of us who seek quiet lives based on regularity of activities, lacking in diversity and distractions, aren't necessarily boring people. On the contrary, a quiet, regular life is the perfect soil for creativity and imagination if you nurture them.
The first quote that struck me from Casey's book is "The monk's center of gravity is not susceptible to exterior pressures so that he is not easily bowled over. Gravitas [in the monk] suggests a certain removal from real or manufactured storms that move life in the direction of soap opera. There is a tendency to develop a spirit of calmness, a certain imperturbability and a sage sense of proportion that transcends temperament and has its source in a firm faith in God."
I have always been attracted to the monastic lifestyle, maybe because I am, like Jen Fulwiler, an INTJ, a personality which can be quite comfortable living life totally inside the head. In fact, when I first became a christian, in a classic 'I got saved' situation after reading the first paragraph of the Gospel of John and realizing that it was LIVING TRUTH like nothing else ever written, my first thought was, "Oh no, what do I do now? I can't be a nun because I'm married and have a baby!" Happily, my neighbors across the road, a wonderful christian couple, took me under their wing and showed me how to aim for holiness as a wife and mother.
The primary sign of holiness that I have aimed for in my life is that spirit of calmness. No wonder my 'life verse' is 1 Timothy 6:6, "Godliness with contentment is great gain". I am deeply grateful to God that He has led me on a path that has brought me to this place, where I have the privilege of living according to Benedictine principles. I doubt that this path seems attractive to you extroverts out there, but for my introvert sisters in Christ, it holds great satisfaction and richness. And of course, since there are more extroverts than introverts in the world, that probably holds true for monastic communities as well, so an unexciting life must be attractive to some extroverts as well!
And for those of you who aren't particularly interested in having an unexciting life, no se preocupen (don't worry), this is not the only topic I plan to write about this year. But I do plan to have it be a recurring theme for awhile, interspersed with other things in my life here in paradise!