February 25, 2018

A Monk’s Manifesto (Abbey of the Arts)

Thanks to Abbey of the Arts (which I told you about in last week’s post on contemplative photography) for this manifesto. I wholeheartedly approve and commend it as a wise and Jesus-shaped path. You can sign the manifesto at the Abbey, and download a PDF copy for yourself.

Monk: from the Greek monachos meaning single or solitary, a monk in the world does not live apart but immersed in the everyday with a single-hearted and undivided presence, always striving for greater wholeness and integrity

Manifesto: from the Latin for clear, means a public declaration of principles and intentions.

Monk Manifesto: A public expression of your commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life.

• • •

1. I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.

2. I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.

3. I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.

4. I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.

5. I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.

6. I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do.

7. I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.

8. I commit to being a dancing monk, cultivating creative joy and letting my body and “heart overflow with the inexpressible delights of love.”*


*quote is from the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict

Comments

  1. watch as thoughts settle
    like snow on the silent world
    under clearing skies

  2. I love the reference to the “stranger within”. I also note that a bad word was used: asceticism. Finally, “ongoing conversion” says that conversion isn’t a one time thing but a continual state. Good manifesto. Thanks for that.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Are you yourself protesting the word, or are you calling attention to the reality that in our culture it’s a “bad word” because of its correlation to what we think about living a life of severe denial?

      Askesis means “training” – in Classical Greek, it could also mean trade or profession, AIUI. The point of askesis isn’t simply denial; it’s realizing that I don’t need all the things I think I need in order to truly live. And from a Christian pov, I therefore am able to be more attentive to God and what God is about.

      Another way to think about it is striving to live as simply as possible.

      Dana

      • I’ve never had any problem with the concept or the practice as it has presented itself in my experience. It was only here at Imonk that I was exposed to a substantial dislike for what I suppose were distortions or negative affects. I just know in previous posts there have been a few people who have railed against the idea so it became a word I wouldn’t use so as to avoid a debate that goes nowhere because of totally different starting points, different perceptions about the topic. I’m not an ascetic but I have no problem with a dose once in awhile. A bit of self denial and fasting clear the mind and heart.

      • I’ve never had any problem with the concept or the practice as it has presented itself in my experience. It was only here at Imonk that I was exposed to a substantial dislike for what I suppose were distortions or negative affects. I just know in previous posts there have been a few people who have railed against the idea so it became a word I won’t use so as to avoid a debate that goes nowhere because of totally different starting points, different perceptions about the topic. I’m not an ascetic but I’ve known some and I have no problem with a good dose once in awhile. Clears the mind and heart.

  3. Burro (Mule) says:

    Putting the precepts of this manifesto into action would go a long way towards relieving the anxiety felt by the inevitability of death and the lack of assurance we have in the Resurrection. Parts of the Manifesto seem like a recipe for a gentle little rehearsal for death and a letting-go. Lent is on the way, and it is healthier to welcome chilly Sister Lent rather than resist her.

    Nevertheless, this Manifesto, despite its near-perfection, rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t really want to have my body “overflow with the inexpressible delights of love”, at least not continually. That sounds exhausting. Nor do I want to commit to “radical acts of hospitality”, whatever those may be. Everyday benevolence to the people God puts in my path, and less churlishness online and elsewhere would be something I could commit to. Sponsoring three young Somali men in a Section Eight apartment, maybe not so much. Even less taking into my home that guy hallucinating on the MARTA train. There’s always at least one, every day, poor fellow. Usually black, always a man.

    And I don’t want to be a dancing anything.

    • Mule, you touch on some of the reasons why I hate signing manifestos regardless of how good they sound and seem. I can’t commit to letting my heart “overflow with the inexpressible delights of love.” I’m not even sure what that looks like. Or, like you say, the I doubt I can commit to “radical acts of hospitality,” especially when I believe Jesus would say hospitality often is nothing more than a cup of water to a person who’s thirsty.

      Now if you changed all the “I commit to”-s to “I will often try to and sometimes fail at…” THAT’S a manifesto I will sign!!

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        Most of them what they want for you to do is vote for some guy who’ll sponsor a government program to help the hallucinating guy. If you don’t support it, you’re not “compassionate”.

        • Well, if you don’t want to pay for a government program to help him, and you don’t want him in your home… what the heck is he supposed to do?

          • What the beaten man on the side of the road would’ve done if the Good Samaritan hadn’t stopped for him. What else can he do?

          • Burro (Mule) says:

            Heal himself by force of will of course. What else?

            All kidding aside, the more accessible usually get a five spot from me with directions to a homeless shelter. There’s a Baptist church in my neighborhood that gets a little check as I can spare it for their ministry.

            I remember the ending to Schindler’s List. What is ever enough given the need?

      • I’m not the signing onto manifestos type either. For me it’s not much different from making New Year’s resolutions, only with even less likelihood of success, or even meaningful engagement.

    • I don’t really want to have my body “overflow with the inexpressible delights of love”…

      Well there’s just more for the rest of us. MARTA, huh? I thought your typing style had a Georgia accent. Or are you a transplant? I was raised in Sunnyside, between Griffin and Hampton, right down 19/41 from Atlanta. Like most of my generation couldn’t get away fast enough. But after 20 years in Your nation’s Capital and heading into Act III of the Big Play, I find myself with a bit of nostalgia now and then. Time does it’s work.

    • Not big on dancing either.

  4. It struck me as quite eastern, possibly strong Buddhist influence.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Not “eastern” in that sense, Ken. Simply, it reflects the broad Christian monastic tradition,especially that set forth in the Rule of St. Benedict. For the possible contemporay relevance of which, consult Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option.”

      • I should have been more clear, sorry. I was looking at her website.
        I visit a Benedictine monastery at times, so in the manifesto I see the influence.

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        I dunno, Randy, looking through some of the seminars offered it appeared to me that some of them were getting a little far from the plantation, promoting communion with “archetypes such as Inanna and Kali.

        No thanks.

        Moving from the Abbey of the Arts to the actual Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict was like moving from a circus fun house to a North Georgia mountainscape. I noticed that most of the “spiritual directors” of the Abbey are Boomer women, as were 90% of the commentators on the Monk Manifesto page. What is the attraction of such syncretism for this demographic?

        I think the beekeeper (see Monk In The World Guest posts) might actually be interesting.

        • I had similar impressions upon perusing the site a couple weeks back.

        • I would agree that there is a degree of syncretism to be watch for at the site. Pretty common with artistic types, I presume. As always, I trust our iMonkers to “hold fast to what is good,” and have enough sense to ignore the rest.

        • I am involved in the contemplative. For years it has been mainly Boomer women. And in our good old burros words ‘some of them get far from the plantation’. I don’t get it and at times its a bit exasperating.

          What has helped to keep me grounded has been Eugene Peterson – a contemplative that has more of a grounding in the word,

  5. Susan Dumbrell says:

    Not for me.
    The site is interesting however in signing and failing to adhere to the commitment, as I know would happen, would plunge me further into my anxiety/depression.
    My mental state is too fragile. It is a risk I dare not take.
    Susan

  6. As I read the manifesto, I felt like something was missing. And then realized the manifesto doesn’t use God’s name. It seems like it could be for any religion or ideology. Maybe that’s the point. But I find it lacking by not name our Lord God.

    • Good point, and that probably is the point, but worse than no mention of God, at least to me, is no mention of Jesus.

      • C
        If Jesus or God are not at the center what is the point. I might as well take dancing lessons. Just another spiritual site not devoted to our Lord.

        • The point is that I can gain wisdom from this approach as I try to follow Jesus. I hope to be capable of learning from others, regardless of how Christ-centered they may be or not be.