Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hermit Ponders Simplicity

A man stopped by the other morning.  There is a story to this.  I had spoken with him on the phone three times last spring, but he was always very busy, rushed, and not able to meet me, not even to say "hello."  I met one of the monk-priests of his monastery, though, one day at the bank.  He said there are the three of them at the monastery.  The monk priest said this man, the abbot, had gone to another state to lead a retreat.

We quipped about how he seems quite busy for a hermit priest and hermit abbot.  Yes, the monk-priest said he sometimes tells the abbot he needs to go off to another monastery for some quiet!

But the abbot stopped the other morning.  He was driving by and happened to see me outside.  He was quite rushed.  I think that is part of his energy level, perhaps, or his way of life.  He commented on the work I was doing to improve the old house.  He said I was welcome to visit his monastery.  I mentioned, as I must, the little situation during Mass, although it may not occur.  Only God is forever, after all.

He then was on his way to his van and was all the more rushed.  He commented he surely hoped I'd be awake for his homily.  Two priests have said that, now, half-joking, and yet not.  I assured him if I visit, and if the state occurs, I would be very deeply aware at another level.

But he was more rushed and not listening by then.  My words slipped away somewhere between the bustling of his full-length, black, orthodox garb about his legs (so as to not get the fabric caught in the door)--and the slamming car door.  I thanked him for stopping to introduce himself, but I think that, too, may have gone unheard.

I noticed a rather significant sign on his dashboard that he is chaplain to a couple of area groups, and he gave me his "business card", as he called it, with his title (the very reverend abbot so-and-so), and thrust into my hand a colorful brochure of his monastery.  It all happened in a rush, and after he sped off, I realized anew:  first impressions do make an impression.

It wearied me.  What I seek in this phase of life is more simply, God; and to aid the search, I seek aspects of the Nine S' as platforms to help me support the living out of the Gospel rule of life.  I lately have been pondering simplicity.  Yes, it seems to me all of the Nine S' do complement each other like threads interwoven in the warp and woof, creating a softly strong tapestry.

I'm not sure how I'd feel being an abbot of two in a monastery of which land was purchased years ago, following a shift from a previous career.  I'm not sure how it would be to be a hermit priest yet so rushed and busy.  It is nearly four months since my phone call suggesting I meet them, not knowing then how many monks there nor how busy the abbot in travel and the group tours they conduct.  One time I called, he was awaiting a busload to give a tour of their compound.  The next time he was leaving to give a retreat in a major city in another state.  The other time he was busy at his chaplaincy job.  Calling a fourth time was out of the question.  I was worn out by the third.

The brief visit the other morning left me exhausted yet with some humor about how quickly he fled--about as quickly as he appeared on the scene, having rushed down the drive.  I first noticed his head--the long, yellow-white hair and immense white beard.  I thought a drifter had come, or some recluse neighbor to complain about the work I am attempting here.  Then I noticed the full-length, heavy, black habit.  By then he was already introducing himself.

All is a blur of rapid-fire exchange.  But that does not mean it was hectic or a blur for him.  We are on different paces, different breath traces, different spaces and places.

Sometimes I can grasp aspects of simplicity when I encounter what seem not to be aspects of simplicity.  I am seeking God by way of simplicity and in the rest of the Nine S' that are interwoven:  Silence, Solitude, Slowness, Suffering, Selflessness, Stability, Stillness, Serenity. This makes for a smooth, strong fabric.

Not heavy black rayon, but just simple, natural, fiber fabric of some soft shade that is serene--that whispers simplicity.  Just simplicity, that is all I seek by God's help, in self and others.  Genuine, slow, still, serene simplicity--no need to seek further than peaceful simplicity--and God shows Himself.

I have not the need, desire nor energy to keep up with intensity.  Lord, let me find sublimity in the softness of the Nine S'.  They suffice to support daily and nightly practice of the Gospels.  Some day, if out on a walk, and I see either of the two monks or abbot about, I can offer a simple, loving "hello".  But I have not wandered that direction up the road in months.  I have ceased looking for, or perhaps expecting, others to bring me "home."  Religious life and positions can become rather a complex business. 

Perhaps Anthony of the Desert became busy and rushed, the more people came to his hut?  Did Benedict rue the day his hermit life became disrupted?  Wasn't it something like two short years before his life changed to that of being well on his way as abbot of a religious order, writing rules and being responsible for many followers?  (And the more the rules, the more are infractions, the more corrections are needed, and then more enforcement.) 

It seems thus, but none of that is for me.  I am not seeking in the rushed, the complicated, the busy, the organized--which might so easily become another form of temporal structure.  Too much of that type of energy dust has been shaken out of me.  Cannot people be inspired to God with simply simple simplicity?  I pray so.

Today, across the road, a tan mare and her likewise tan filly are newly arrived and grazing in the pasture.  I wonder if there will be five horses now, or if the two I do not see now, have been taken to a different farm for boarding.

These horses, grazing and meandering about the field, have become my daily view of simplicity.  With the break of dawn, I can make out their shapes across the road in the pasture.  Sometimes they are laid out on the grass.  Other times they take their usual position of neck craned forward, head down, silently nibbling, nibbling.  They slowly amble to another area of nibble-worthy grass.  Sometimes in inclement weather, I see someone has placed garments upon their backs to give protection.

The horses more state the appeal for the humble lessons of life.   They live sumptuously simple lives.   Their pace is softly gentle, their communication mostly silent, their existence sincerely serene.  They mostly pass unnoticed in their natural coats and habitat.

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