men, grumpy monastics, and noticing

I sat with a group of men this week who shared openly about their struggles with relationships.  It is always a remarkable experience to see men open up in a culture which constantly teaches us that we cannot fail, we must conquer, and show no weakness.  Brene Brown tells the memorable story of meeting a man at an event once who commented that it was convenient that she didn't research men.  And then he quipped that his daughters and wife would rather he die on his white horse than fall off of it.  I don't know that it is true that as men, those around us feel that way.  But perhaps we do feel that way about ourselves, that we'd just about rather die than admit failure and weakness.  Men all too often are trained from a young age that vulnerability and feelings are pejoratively feminine.  Which makes it all the more remarkable when men are able to open up about the trouble spots in their lives.  Three thoughts on this rainy Florida morning, as has become customary.

1.  We are all looking for that dance with the divine.  I've been immersing myself in New Seeds of Contemplation, and I have been thinking about Merton's own experience with the need to connect with the feminine, notwithstanding his self elected isolation and commitment to the monastic tradition.  My reflection on Merton's experience has been colored somewhat by reading about the grumpy monastics of Mount Athos this week.  Into focus comes the being of balance and the inevitable need for its actualization.  Asceticism cannot remove balance as a categorical imperative; existence. And there is the curious rejection of the need for balance in our traditions, even in the one sided narrative of the "immaculate conception."  What is the relationship between asceticism and fundamental balance?

2.  What is contemplation?  I read the first section of New Seeds a half dozen times, and I am comforted by Merton's observation that anything we say about it must almost necessarily be taken back.  That it is perhaps more a state of granted awareness which comes perhaps as nothing more than a deeply realized state of grace.

3.  One of my goals for the upcoming year is to notice more.

I'll leave you with a small piece from New Seeds:

For the contemplative there is no cogito (I think) and no ergo ("therefore") but only SUM, I Am. Not in the sense of a futile assertion of our individuality as ultimately real, but in the humble realization of our mysterious being as persons in whom God dwells, with infinite sweetness and inalienable power.


  1. The issue is transcultural--there are stories of women from certain African countries who abandon men who were raped in civil wars because they felt they could no longer defend them.

  2. 2 thoughts:
    1. I read that man's comment to Brene Brown a few months ago, it stuck in my mind as well, and it made me smile to see you quote it.
    2. I'd really like to hear more details of your thoughts on the one sided nature of the narrative of the "immaculate conception".


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