3.8.08

This is the true story of many strangers

chosen (by God) to live in a monastery...

Sorry, I couldn't resist riffing on the Real World's opening "statement", but I recently spent several hours immersed in an undeniably more real world, that of the Carthusian Monks.

Several months (quite probably over a year) ago, my uncle recommended a movie he'd just seen, Into Great Silence. It was shot by a man who lived with the monks for four months, taping their lives. The "rules" stated that he would not use extra lighting, that he would follow their Rule, and that there would be no soundtrack except that of their daily lives.

Wow.

The most striking (besides the nearly 3-hour length) feature is the silence, and yet the noise remains: a light sssss of wind and snow, for example. The gentle turning of a page. Scissors cutting cloth. Bells tolling the hours, and the Hours. And, of course, the chanting. It's a brave world these monks have chosen, to live outside not just society, but outside verbal communication. To allow themselves to be open to ritual, to repetition, to God's word seeping into their daily lives; spending days and years intent on listening to the tiny sounds we take for granted, and for the Voice we rarely seek for long periods of time.

Silence is not our friend - it's even, I would venture, our enemy. We, as a society, seem to shun silence. How many people turn on the tv or radio as "background noise", afraid that our own natural rhythms will not be enough? There's something very powerful about silence, and yet something that makes us not quite comfortable. I've met people for whom the one hour Meeting is too much "time alone".

I find that true silence, allowing your mind to rest as well, can be frightening. Sometimes I'm not comfortable in Meeting, particularly when I've had a difficult week or when there's something I'm internally wrestling with. But I've also learned, and clearly these men have as well, that the discipline of listening quietly and waiting is rewarding in and of itself.

Go see this movie.

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