Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Monastery

Am watching The Monastery on BBC2. I would find it impossible to be a nun - I couldn't accept that praying all day was a better way of living life than falling in love and making the most of every opportunity I can, even though I am a Christian. I don't understand how anyone could do this - the cynical view would say they're all running away or have bad social skills, but I don't believe that, I think they genuinely feel called. It must be such a hard choice to make. The men in the experiment seem to be really benefiting though.

The other thing I have difficulty with is that they're so shut away in their monasteries. Surely it would be better to go out into the community and help people? Is praying for the world really as valuable as going out to trouble spots and working to help improve lives? I can certainly understand why people would feel called to do that.

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Helen Mct said...

Hmm that's an interesting question Sarah! I think monasticism celebrates sacrifice and denial as positive, in the sense that it is seen as a liberation from the (depraved and corrupted) material world, and inspirational because it is a total devotion to what they see as the purpose of life (service to God). I guess you could draw a parallel (TO AN EXTENT) with those that are prepared to commit the sacrifice of their own life in service of God (i.e. suicide bombers.)

Like you, I could never do it personally, and monasticism does seem totally opposed to what we value: embracing life, love and the time we spend alive,and I suppose that's why more moderate (for want of a better word)theologies who value life on earth as well as what comes after don't have nunneries and monasteries. At the same time, I really admire those who are so committed to their faith, to the belief that this life is only a preparation for the afterlife, that they are prepared to renounce the 'earthly' values of love, sex, marriage, parenthood, materialism etc. But then again,Catholicism has different orders, and only the extreme ones live in total seclusion, with vows of silence and Monty-Python style flagellation. As I understand, most of the orders which exist in Britain are wholly dedicated to serving the community, alms and education.

Of course, nowadays fewer and fewer people dedicate themselves to a cloistered life, and historically I guess the life of a nun is a bit dubious. It's where they used to parcel off 'fallen' women, women who were perceived to be 'madwomen in the attic' types and the only escape for those women who didn't want to play the marriage game and be married off to some foul but socially convenient man. Luckily society is a lot more accepting than it used to be (or so we think) and those women who don't fit into conventions don't have to be marginalized and ostracized by joing a cloister.

Phew, sorry about that essay. I'm not personally religious so sorry if any of my opinions seem plain wrong or misguided to those that are. Three of my great aunts spent all their adult lives in nunneries of the milder type and my cousin has recently left Ampleforth Abbey after over ten years due to a crisis of faith. I really wonder how he copes in the world after spending so long living in a monastery. Before that he wrote and published an interesting book about 5 years ago justifiying why he chose to live his life in such a way. That's my crazy Catholic family for you. Hope this lets me post a comment this long.