Friday, February 7, 2014

Simplicity in Santa Barbara - 2

Months have passed.  I just reread what I wrote in September, and realize that the two things I thought were necessary for simplicity -- enough and direction -- have been given me.

I have enough, and that is something I am getting used to.  Not just the basics of life, which are actually pretty elegant here -- our terrific chef Luis Ruelas, the lovely property and house we live in, the community of Santa Barbara -- but also enough time, enough sleep, enough work, enough intellectual stimulation.  I have never really not had enough, but for various reasons buried in my psyche, I have not easily been able to recognize the enough-ness of my life.  And one of the great things about being this monk in this monastery in this place is that I am, maybe for the first time, relaxing into the realization that I have enough.  And with that comes more contentment, more trust, more ability to look away from myself from time to time.

And direction.  I guess I would say, not that I have found direction, but that it has found me.  Two things have come to inhabit my working time and to exercise my intellect in the last months.  One of them is working on the financial and regulatory aspects of our monastic use of the new property here.  Not to go into the boring details, but our change of property ownership and our evolving sense of what we might want to do with the property in the long run have offered challenges which have engaged the energies and work of the whole community here.  We certainly live in a complex society now, and the fact that we want to to use the property in monastically life-giving ways does not mean that we can without a lot of work.  The wider secular community has many interests which must be served.  So there has been a lot of green eyeshade work.

The second direction that has come to me is scholarly.  Quite unexpectedly I was asked last August to contribute the chapter on Anglican Monasticism to a forthcoming volume from Oxford University Press called the Oxford Handbook of Christian Monasticism.  This is a marvelous thing.  It has affirmed work I did earlier when I wrote the history of the Order, which is very gratifying.  But more, it has called me to organize my thoughts on a wider field.  I have had a marvelous time the last few months updating my bibliographies, reading things I had not read before, many of them new, and thinking about the subject in new ways.  The point of the project is not so much a survey of the history of the subject as an overview of the direction of scholarship and discernment about where it might usefully go.  I don't want to steal my own thunder (if such it be) but suffice it to say that while there have been good biographies and narrative community histories, analytical scholarship of the subject is in its infancy.  Which I find quite exciting.

So.  I have enough and more than enough.  And I have direction(s).  And I have to say, I think what I wrote in the last blog in September is true: These -- enough and direction -- are good platforms for simplicity.  I find myself less scattered, more focused, better settled in lectio and quiet prayer.  These particular two directions are, of course, time limited.  By June I will have written the chapter and sent it off.  Not by June, but in a reasonable time the context we are living in here will clarify itself.  And then I will be searching again.  And I am confident a new directional focus will find me.

But in the meantime -- what gifts I have received!  Deo gratias!