This article by Ed Cumming, a young journalist writing in the Daily Telegraph, goes on about how he adopted a ‘monastic’ lifestyle. I clicked through to read it and soon realized that all he was doing was downsizing. He moved into a flat and started with nothing but a mattress on the floor.
When I helped my girlfriend to move house last year, an experience I don’t care to relive, I pledged that the next time I changed addresses I would try to get by with as little as possible. Not for me the “sham” cushions, grooved chopping boards, scented candles, dessert wine glasses, slow cookers, toast racks and Kilner jars that she and her gang deemed essential to modern life. No throws from North Africa, nor curtains from the Orient, or “reclaimed” desk lamps. I would start with the very basics, and work up from there.
Haters said I couldn’t do it. They told me I was mad, that I wouldn’t be able to cope without the reams of jumble -sale nonsense we assume to be necessary to 21st-century existence. Surely you’ll need a sofa, they pleaded, and some cutlery. We’ll see about that, I thought, steeling myself.
He eventually added a few more modern comforts like a chair or two, some crockery and cutlery, but not much more. What he doesn’t mention in this “monastic” experience is anything about religion, spirituality or prayer. Furthermore, he reveals that his girlfriend sleeps over and he still has his modern conveniences at work…including a nonchalant admission to watching porn.
With caution, my girlfriend came for dinner. Only after we finished eating did we realise that there was nothing to do. With no TV, no hi-fi, no laptop, no wi-fi, and no phone signal, we were cut off. So instead we had a conversation, and then we read. We went to bed at about ten and slept like the dead. The next morning – and every morning since – I have sprung out of bed at six. I read books instead of Twitter. I keep my Facebook, eBay and pornography to office hours. In many ways it is blissful.
To think that he could have had an experience of real monasticism if he had wanted to by visiting a monastery for a few days. He would have been given a monastic cell, austere meals, no wi fi, TV or computers and plenty of good books to read as well as prayer, meditation, spiritual exercises and an exploration into the meaning of life.
Some years ago British TV did an excellent reality show in which six guys actually went to the Benedictine Abbey at Worth in Southern England and spent time there while the cameras followed them. I think they were a set of ordinary modern British blokes–none of them particularly religious–who volunteered to take part in this experiment. It was great watching them learn to cope with the monastic regime, get up early to pray–learn that people actually believe in prayer and begin to discover in their secular, stripped down mentality something they never dreamed had existed before.
I remember once in England a friend who had married a friend. When we met I was the first person he had ever met who was religious. At all. Ever. He was totally fascinated and intrigued by religion, joined the local church and became quite fervent for a time. Suddenly he was caught up in a world he’s never even knew existed. It was like a kid going through the wardrobe into Narnia.
This would be real evangelization–simply taking totally and utterly unchruched people and letting them experience radical Christianity. Take a bunch of party college girls and drop them into a Missionaries of Charity convent for a few days and film it or take a set of college frat boys and drop them into Clear Creek Monastery.
I’d watch that.