Monastic Separateness & Engagement (part 4): a Challenge

Posted by on Nov 29, 2010 in Otherhood | No Comments

[This series of posts, “The Elements of Monasticism” asks the question, what exactly is monasticism? “Separateness & Engagement” will unfold in a series of 4 posts (links: 1234).]

Looking back at some of the questions I asked in part 1, the assumptions I unpacked in part 2, and the different perspectives I explored in part 3, here’s a 10-part challenge to would-be secular monastics regarding separateness & engagement:

1. You can be isolated and still impact the world

2. You can be monastic and rarely be isolated

3. You can be a monastic and be more engaged than anyone else

4. It is no threat to your monkhood to be engaged with the world

5. Just because some monastics are missionaries doesn’t mean all (or even most) are.

6. Monastics can embrace social liberalism.

7. Monks can be activists, politicians, artists, scientists, tech-gurus and entrepreneurs (monks can even make money)

8. A monastery can be a role models of what a “quadruple bottom line” organizations can look like. As the world’s oldest economically viable, environmentally sound, socially responsible, spiritually active communities, they can exemplify what many businesses, nonprofits, and intentional communities are moving toward.

9. Your community can call itself a monastery.

10. You can call yourself a monk.

Now we’ve come back around to Dostoevsky’s Father Zosima:

“For monks are not a special sort of people, but only what all people ought to be.”

In his introduction to Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict, editor Patrick Henry writes:

In many places the population of monasteries is declining, but, ironically, more and more people appear to think that Father Zossima was onto something. Monasteries are crowded with guests; books that draw on monastic spirituality are best-sellers. If, as a student of mine once said, a monk or nun lurks somewhere inside each of us, then nuns and monks can teach us not just about their life, but also about ourselves—who we are and what we may become.

[This series of posts, “The Elements of Monasticism” asks the question, what exactly is monasticism? “Separateness & Engagement” will unfold in a series of 4 posts (links: 1234).]

Looking back at some of the questions I asked in part 1, the assumptions I unpacked in part 2, and the different perspectives I explored in part 3, here’s a 10-part challenge to would-be secular monastics regarding separateness & engagement:

1. You can be isolated and still impact the world

2. You can be monastic and rarely be isolated

3. You can be a monastic and be more engaged than anyone else

4. It is no threat to your monkhood to be engaged with the world

5. Just because some monastics are missionaries doesn’t mean all (or even most) are.

6. Monastics can embrace social liberalism.

7. Monks can be activists, politicians, artists, scientists, tech-gurus and entrepreneurs (monks can even make money)

8. A monastery can be a role models of what a “quadruple bottom line” organizations can look like. As the world’s oldest economically viable, environmentally sound, socially responsible, spiritually active communities, they can exemplify what many businesses, nonprofits, and intentional communities are moving toward.

9. Your community can call itself a monastery.

10. You can call yourself a monk.

Now we’ve come back around to Dostoevsky’s Father Zosima:

“For monks are not a special sort of people, but only what all people ought to be.”

In his introduction to Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict, editor Patrick Henry writes:

In many places the population of monasteries is declining, but, ironically, more and more people appear to think that Father Zossima was onto something. Monasteries are crowded with guests; books that draw on monastic spirituality are best-sellers. If, as a student of mine once said, a monk or nun lurks somewhere inside each of us, then nuns and monks can teach us not just about their life, but also about ourselves—who we are and what we may become.

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