Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lived Experience

One afternoon last week the combination of temperature and humidity gave us a heat index of 109 degrees. It’s been hot all summer on the South Coast with the heat index topping out most days above 100. A body just doesn’t have much get-up-and-go when the heat and humidity is this high. I suppose it is part of the cost we pay for the mild winters we enjoy.

Work, the kind that I do to earn an income, becomes a grueling affair in this heat. I try to get done early so I’m out of the worst of the afternoon heat. It is a good plan. But it is a plan that doesn’t always pan out. Not with the amount of rain we’ve had this summer. Our frequent rains have kept the grass growing. Folks want their lawns to look nice. And keeping their lawns looking nice is what they pay me to do.

The economics of these times looms over our heads so, get-up-and-go or no, I push through and suffer the toll taking effects. I simply don’t have the luxury to do otherwise despite the fact that the process of aging has begun to exacerbate the effects. There is no avoiding it. Getting through the summer months sets itself up as the seasonal priority.

In a couple of months I will arrive at my third anniversary as an Oblate. That decision came after a few years of reading monk-thoughts and studying monk-life. Over these past several years I have spent quite a bulk of time pondering, writing, and leaving behind these close to 200 pages of a paper trail regarding this lived experience. These years and pages of reflections have brought me to some not so surprising conclusions.

The first is that very few people living in the world today, Catholics included, have any interest at all in things Benedictine. Monastic spirituality, in the eyes of the modern world, is looked upon as an outdated expression. It has no inherent value to the largest bulk of the people of these times.

Another is that, despite my efforts to emulate monk-life, I am not a monk. I do not live within a cloistered environment where all my daily needs are supplied from day one to day last. The Rule does continue to present itself as a marvelous guide filled with good advice. This is advice that must however be seasoned by the realities of life as it individually discovers us outside the monastic enclosure.

I have found that, in this world outside the cloister, attempts to adhere strictly to the fundamental rigors and routines prescribed by St. Benedict for cloistered monk-life is a sure course this side of the wall toward living with a constant sense of guilt for falling short of the mark. This is an arena wherein I am, with or without the help of the Rule, quite self-accomplished.

The sound of the gentle shower that fell on our roof before daylight this morning lulled me back to restful sleep. I needed it.