Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Secular Monk in America

A few days ago, I googled the phrase "secular monks in America" and found a post at the blog Not Native Fruit, which you can read here, from June 2005 which touches on what I'm after. I left a comment at the post to sort of mark my passing, but as with most things monk, it was a rather quiet passing. Maybe a few ripples, but I am not making waves these days, much less leaving a frothing wake.

For some years, rather inadvertently, I've been taking on aspects of a sort of secular monk. No, I don't chant, and I don't wear a robe, and believe you me, the celibacy is not intentional -- just sorta worked out that way. Been a while since I've enjoyed some worldly pleasures... but back to the upside of monkdom....

Regular readers of ABN know I'm not much for the "god" part. Hence the "secular" part. And not being a prayerful sort of monk but, as my google search suggested, an "American" sort of monk. Indeed, the phrase "secular monk" has been used in many places, so maybe it's not the oxymoron some might at first believe. The artist Marcel Duchamp was called a secular monk, and one biographer called the playwright Samuel Beckett a secular monk. The label has also been applied to wide swaths of reclusive readers, intellectual hermits and gentle ne're-do-wells, writers, poets, pacifists, philosophers and scientists.

I'm not eating rat meat and rice. I've not gotten rid of everything I own. I haven't moved into any sort of commune or monastery or retreat as such. It's just that I have retreated, some. But as I eat out less, I eat much more simply. My menu is spartan, but I think admirably so. It's all part of treading lightly. Rarely meat at home, not even sandwiches. For protein, tuna, beans and cottage cheese. Then again, there is rice.

As for clothes, every time I get something new, I get ride of a pile of old things, and the new things are always solids, no patterns, and usually black pants and shirts that are either, white, black, gray or (as with the Amish) a bold and beautiful medium blue some would call French blue and others would call cobalt.

(You can see the "American" aspect of my monkdom going on here: style along with some substance, and I do offer some substance. But then monks have always been into style, even if that style meant some sort of earthen colored robe and sandals, sans underwear. Btw, I like boxer briefs myself, snug on the leg, and I hear that's the style most popular with the ladies, too.)

As I say, it's been rather inadvertent, slowly (and not always consistently) shifting priorities, not the swinging of a pendulum but just some nudging in a direction I've been considering for decades. It's interesting to me that I can be rather reclusive and yet gregarious when out, about as friendly as ever, gracious and polite -- since these are signs of grace and humility for which monks I suppose are known.

Secular monks, I would say, strangely enough, do not have a higher calling than to society itself. They may commune with nature, but it is to bring nature back to the society at large. They may go off to read or think or walk long distances or not do the busy work others use to break the surface tension, but they do their own things to make contributions. Even their own lives, however alone at times, are things they would like to share with others, as a peace offering that is not part of the razzmatazz. I would like to think that we secular monks are individual centers of both calm and dynamism, woe and wonder, spirit and substance.


At 12/18/2008 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you brother!

At 12/21/2008 11:27 PM, Anonymous St. Lawrence de ABN said...

Love ya, man, whoever you are!

We gotta tread well and do good.

Love to all, Lawrence

At 12/10/2010 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I googled "Secular Monks" because I agree with the concept so fiercely that I've joined a secular monastery, which is opening a brewery. It's an actual religion ftw.

At 6/07/2011 5:26 AM, Anonymous Poker Site said...

How so?

At 3/18/2014 2:21 PM, Blogger Zachary Timmons said...

I've been working with two others to try to put together a secular monastery, with the contemplation of philosophy and science at its heart. We're trying to gather interested members, so that we can form an online community. Our long-term goals are to start up a physical monastery, someday :)

At 3/19/2014 1:36 PM, Anonymous Lawrence Walker said...

Zachary, thanks for digging up this rather antique post at "A Better Nation," and thanks very much for your comment. I would be glad to hear of any future developments. Cheers, Lawrence

At 4/17/2016 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one that thought this way. I'm still very young, but I'd like to dedicate my life to opening a secular monastery someday so that the very few people that share this worldview can come together (introvertly, of contradictory as that may sound) & continue their paths of humanity without the bothers of work-life balance, domestic living & the unneeded & potentially wasted time worrying about intimate relationships. If anyone else is interested in this (somehow, maybe startup slow w/ web-sites, social-media & volunteer recruitment phases; but eventually gather support for the secular/humanist monestary...even a private non-profit supported by funding for privatized "think-tanks"...., lol, idk. You get the jist), PLEASE CONTACT ME!! I am only 30 now, but have 2 degrees & an enormous amount of motivation & pure intentions to help ourselves (the seculars & humanity) almost 11 years of research on many topics under general & applicable theories, too (philosophy, political theory, sociology, culture, etc...); A secular monastery with intentions of bettering Humanity!! Please find me & we can help ourselves AND the world; I'm positive
Many LOVES & RESPECTS my fellow brother/sister. We could very well change all of human history in the greatest/most-optimized way. Spread the word at the very least

At 6/16/2016 6:38 PM, Blogger Zach said...

I need to find a secular monastery

At 8/24/2016 8:25 AM, Blogger Ted said...

I would be interested in getting in touch with anyone else that resonates with the the concept of being a secular monk and with the interest of creating some sort of online community or even create a way to find like-minded people in different localities.


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