January 26th, 1995, Serial No. 00109

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I think two aspects of the poles I've talked about of being and loving, they're not mutually exclusive but they, I think, apply to those. Solitude tending more towards helping us focus on our own self and the being part of our development and community on the relational or loving, though, as I said, it's not mutually exclusive. Let me provide a brief review of what community life is and isn't, discuss a couple models with you, and then bring up a topic that's usually kind of touchy and that is individual versus community needs, think about that a little bit with you, and then is it possible to have too much of a good thing, like psychology and community life, and you can ponder what my answer to that one will be when we get to that point. If you look back historically, some of the earliest communities existed as a result of


personal relationships. There was some real strong connection that tended to bring people together, that would be true in Benedict's case and I think in Francis' case as well, and they often would start that way but would need to have to evolve into something different. From what I've read on Francis, for example, his life moved away from that and he himself moved to be less interested, actually, in relationships with other people. Folks can correct me if they know differently, but I was actually a little surprised to hear that about some movement away from that in his own experience. At a psychological level, we are often very hungry for things that we never quite had enough of, things that we might have had a taste of growing up and wish that we could have more or perhaps recapture some early experiences. That can be why community life can be so attractive to some individuals.


They may be thinking at a level that's not necessarily right at awareness, if I come into this life, I will have all of those early needs met that I didn't have met or I'll be able to experience again at a psychological level that wonderful bliss that the infant feels when it can rest at its mother's breast, kind of satiated and filled. The truth of the matter is that communities are really only capable of giving to each other and to those who come to them what they themselves have. We are made up of the individuals that come to us and the work that the community does with those who are members of that. There are varying levels of intimacy in various kinds of communities and in a community over time and among people within the particular community at any various moments and it's


important to keep that in mind. And also very important to remember that some things community life never promises, doesn't really promise emotional love or mutual affection and intimacy with everybody who comes into the community or among those who are a part of the community. As I discussed yesterday, this build up of a sense of intimacy takes time, the trust takes time to develop and depending on any number of things, it may or may not happen for a particular individual. As long as people are looking and expecting unconditional love and acceptance, there will be difficulties in community life and this is often seen in enmeshed communities or enmeshed individuals. Enmeshed communities are when there is a real lack of any kind of sense of boundary and self-identity and it is just very strictly a diffuse community of people who are not


community identity where everyone is expected to act and behave in the same way and any efforts towards individuation and kind of staking out one's sense of self separate from the group is very much frowned upon and growth is not allowed in those sorts of situations. Let me read to you two lines that I think, two little quotes that kind of give you descriptions of the extremes of what community life can be like. From the Psalms, how good and how pleasant it is when people live in unity. If you use the exclusive language edition, it will talk about when brothers dwell as one, that's the version that we use down at our place in Kansas. So it kind of gives a sense of how marvelous community life can be like. Now let me give you another definition of community, a group of people who probably would have ended up liking each other if they had gotten together under more favorable circumstances


like at a federal prison or in a train wreck. So need I say more? Certainly we have those kinds of experiences in community life, times when it really does hang together very well for us and our individual needs, the needs of the community and our spiritual growth are all together as one. And then there can be other times and periods where that's not the case, where it seems like it's a constant struggle because of perhaps unacknowledged needs and expectations that we might have of the community that the community cannot give. That's not the only reason. We can have this kind of sense of being on edge with others in the community when we're in a state of moving towards a new change in ourselves and maybe when we're not in sync with the whole community, which should be a fair amount of the time actually because


everyone is in a developmental track of his own here and we won't all be working on the same issues at the same time. So you have to expect some rubs every now and again. In most communities, there isn't a great deal of choice about with whom one lives, especially when you've joined the community. You might think when you're coming in, well, okay, I've got a sense of what these people are like and I guess I could throw my lot in with them. But after a while, once you've made your final commitment to a place, outside of getting enough no votes at solemn profession time, it's very difficult really to have a great deal of control over who lives within a community. And that shifts the way the experience is felt. One of the points that I wanted to make yesterday that I forgot to do is to just throw this out


as something to be thinking about. We talked about intimacy and the opportunities for that. One of the points I like to stress is that there's a difference between a desire for intimacy and a need for intimacy. Sometimes when religious men find themselves kind of struggling with issues of being separate and apart and leading a celibate lifestyle, feeling alienated and isolated, they sometimes have the impression that they're the only ones who are having to give up lots of things. And it sometimes can be useful to broaden one's view and to think that there are any number of other individuals who are foregoing intimacy for one reason or another. The person who is widowed is just one example. There are many other situations that develop in life. I think it's a useful exercise just to reflect on your own friends and acquaintances and


to work to think objectively, is everyone always having every last of their intimacy needs and wishes met all the time? The answer, generally speaking, is no, but there are some sacrifices that everyone needs to make in that area. So, what it isn't is family. And what it can't give you is what family life tries to give with varying degrees of success itself. Again, it's important not to idealize the family experience. That can work well, it can work okay, and that's usually how it is for most folks, or it can work poorly for individuals. But the shared deep intimacy, especially that results from the sexual union of the husband and wife, and then the children that come from that, bring a very special quality to those


relationships that cannot ever be duplicated in a religious community, or really any other kind of community outside family. Now, there have been a couple of models that have developed over time, historically. The ascetical model for a religious community life is manifested by the monastic experience, and speaks to a certain detachment, separation, in order to seek God in a particular way. The mendicant model, which is more of a relational, mobile model, was formed in reaction to what was experienced as some excess in the detachment of the monastic model. And here there was a love for God and immediate neighbors, and trying to get more in contact with them. And a third model would be that of, based on mission, typified by the Jesuits, who had a great concern for bringing Christ to those who did not know him.


Useful models, and numerous communities have been founded and continue to be founded in these traditions. There's one kind of model that's starting to creep in, that really is not an authentic one, and one that I just want to comment on, is to alert you to it, and that is the therapeutic model. So the answer is yes, there can be too much of a good thing, there can be too much psychology in religious communities, from my perspective. Clearly I'm not saying that I'm opposed to psychology or psychological insights or psychotherapy. That's not the case. What I don't think is an authentic way of leading religious life is to pattern religious life after a therapeutic community. This is treatment, 24 hours a day, that's the notion of a therapeutic community. Lots of group therapy, lots of democratic methods, voting on everything, having meetings


for this and meetings for that and meetings for everything. The whole social structure is designed to address therapeutic issues, designed to work towards the individual treatment needs of the people there. The problem is, and you say, well that sounds kind of nice, isn't that good, if everyone's individual needs are met, won't that work towards the up-building of the community? No, not necessarily is my answer to that, because what can happen is that the focus on the individual can lead to the neglect of the community's needs, which are not always the same thing. Also, there can be such a thing as too much democracy, too much voting on topics that perhaps don't really need to be done. The principle of subsidiarity should come into play. Those who can make decisions should make decisions and not involve everybody for every last little piece of decision making.


Meetings can be overdone. This was, I think, more evident in the earlier part of the period after the Second Vatican Council, where just every last thing was a reaction to the sense of being too separate from the decision-making process. Anyway, this kind of model leads to, again, increased dependence, and although I argue here for this kind of sense of familial self and this interdependence, I'm never arguing for this kind of unhealthy dependence upon other people. These kind of communities that have some aspects of this will tend to attract dependent individuals. It's really, I think, an abuse of the relational model, and it neglects the larger community needs. The question comes up, well, what do you do about that? What comes first, individual or community needs? I don't have an easy answer to that, but I think more often than not, community needs


need to come first. More often than not and in the long haul, community needs need to come first. It's a great fit when people's individual needs can be met within the context of the community needs, and that is something that I encourage people to be thinking about in their kind of ongoing formation. Is there a sense that at least some of the things that are important in my life can be met within the given community structure that exists? Because if it doesn't, that's going to lead to trouble later on and increased alienation and separation, not a movement towards healthy solitude, but a movement towards alienation and distancing from the greater community needs. Solitude. For your community in particular, this has a special import, and although when I do my


summarization tomorrow, I'm going to comment on the need for solitude as important for all human beings in their ongoing development. This aspect of life and prayer looms larger for you than it does for many other communities. I wanted to talk about, in terms of two areas, temperament issues and the capacity to be alone. How many of you are introverts in here? No, let's do it this way. It would be easier probably to do it the other way. How many of you are extroverts? One, two. Okay. Simply summarizing some of Jung's ideas, which will be very familiar to all the rest of us who are introverts to have the experience of this, does it mean to be introverted that we are socially inept? No, right.


We can have very fine social skills, and of course we pride ourselves on our great social capacities, right? The uneducated and unformed put introverted along with kind of computer nerds and people who just are always tongue-tied around anyone that's got a pulse. That's really not the case. We get our energy and our sense of identity gets restored and strengthened and developed in times alone. Extroverts, on the other hand, find themselves feeling more energized, and their sense of identity gets affirmed and developed in their relationships with other people. Take two people. You go to a party, introvert and extrovert. They can both have a great time. People can be watching the interactions between them. You've got a panel of judges watching from mirrors in the ceiling. They rate them both on their interpersonal skills.


They come back afterward. The extrovert says, where's the next party? This was really great. The introvert says, I'm going to my room. It was a nice time. I need a little time alone. I'll see you in two days, or whatever. This is neither good nor bad. This is just how things are. Now, there can be dangers, and this gets back to a question that someone asked, I think, my first or second session, about unhealthy uses of solitude, and I want to comment on the possibilities of that. Although the caricature of the computer nerd phobic individual is, in fact, a caricature, those of us who are introverts have the tendency that we could be moving in that direction if we're not careful. We could become too introverted, too pulled within ourselves, too schizoid, to use the more technical term. This is particularly true if we tend to be introverted, have only a weak sense of ourself,


and if that's coupled with lots of experiences of hurts in our relationships with other people. Since we have a predisposition to enjoy being by ourselves in the first place, even if things are going well, if things are going a little poorly, we're going to be even more drawn to a sense of isolation and separation and alienation. This will not be a particularly healthy experience. On the other hand, extroverts, things can also go wrong for them sometimes. Not all extroverts, but some of them who have difficulties with a solid sense of their self tend to become what might be called placators or pleasers, trying to do what they can for all the people around them, because being with others is how they have a sense of identity, but their own one is so fragile that they have to be on good terms with everybody all the time,


so they're forever being nice and pleasing and subsuming any self-expression within them to take care of whatever they assume to be the needs of the other people around them. These folks who have more trouble with this often had experiences of a lot of conditional love when they were growing up, so they got pats on the head from their parents when they did certain things at a certain level, and other times they didn't. So they weren't just acknowledged for being, but they were acknowledged for what they did. So those are the two extremes. When I discussed those different ways in which people needed people, someone said, well, why would some people tend to kind of throw themselves to others versus separate themselves? And I think this is the answer to that from my perspective. You throw yourself to others and you keep up these sorts of relationships


because you're still hoping to try and find yourself as extroverts might who have these sorts of problems. The introverts, the ones who need to pull back, their early experiences could be related to kind of being cut off or abandoned at a psychological level in their early lives. Now that's not to say that every introvert's been abandoned and every extrovert had conditional loving parents. I want to present the extremes. I do think this notion of introversion and extroversion is a constitutional temperament, that we're born this way, we make some shifts in that, but not much. So it's a matter of recognizing and understanding our temperament and working with it. This movement towards solitude is authentic when it's not done because, to Petey's quote, because you feel like some lonely bird on a roof and no one else is around there for you,


so you're just going to go back to your hermitage and stay there. That's not an authentic expression of it. If it's an antisocial act on your part because of your own conflicts with people, then that's a problem. That's not authentic. If it's done to deny the socialization qualities that are so important of the extroverts, again, that would also work against an authentic expression of it. It is, and should be, a chance for individual and personal growth and understanding one's relationship with oneself and with God, from my perspective. What you have to watch out for, and I see this in my community and it's a danger for me too as well, is to become, well in my case, a bachelor Kansas monk. Just kind of alone, separate, not around other people, kind of going through the motions,


a life that potentially can be barren instead of enriching. The solitude should be a time of enrichment, a time of confronting oneself, owning one's split-off sides, deepening one's prayer relationship with God. And I think it should be a vehicle for the creative element in people to develop more creative tendencies and capacities within them. The time alone should, especially in the early formation process, in kind of training in solitude, and I think the extroverts perhaps need more help with this since they don't quite take to it as well as the introverts do, into creative uses of the experience of solitude. What facilitates this is one's level of capacity to be alone, and I think I commented on that earlier. This is an idea from a child psychoanalyst named Winnicott from England.


He was the Dr. Spock of England, used to write books and articles and radio shows. He was really quite good. His notion is that the young child develops the capacity to be not physically connected with the mother, but still near her, and not to experience anxiety. That moves then to being able to be away from the mother and still hold an image of her, and again, not have anxiety. So it's the capacity to be alone in the presence of another. It starts off with the mother in the same room, then it starts off with the presence being at a psychological level in one's mind. So for us, I think that speaks to how we feel when we're alone. You may have noticed this with retreatants sometimes, that the time alone can be very difficult for them. They need to fill it up, they need to be doing things,


they need to be talking to things, even if it's just talking to God. I won't say just talking to God, but that may not be really what's called for, but it's a defensive maneuver on their part, because it's so hard to be alone and to experience that. So the greater the capacity that one has for this, the greater the experience of solitude, I think the easier it will be. Can individuals grow in their capacity to be alone? Yes, I think so. I think that can be done. I think spiritual direction is a big help with that. You don't have mom around anymore, but a key relationship to work on, I think, with this is one's relationship with God. And I think the capacity to be alone and to be oneself in relationship to God in a prayer relationship is a very powerful experience, a very powerful one indeed. Let me comment briefly on loneliness,


which affects people whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, whether we spend all of our time with other people, or whether we live a very separate sort of lifestyle. Social scientists sometimes have nothing better to do than to take surveys. You'd think it would be unnecessary to do that, but did you know that 90% of the population has been lonely? I think the other 10% are lying, myself. That's all something that we've experienced. However, about 25% of the population have been severely or painfully lonely at some time in their life. And there are different kinds of loneliness, and I think this is an important thing to think about. There is the sense of emotional loneliness. This is a deeper, more pervasive kind of loneliness.


This comes about from the experience, the affective experience, of an absence of close, intimate attachments. And these individuals in particular will be very apprehensive about spending time alone. They feel utterly alone. It's equivalent to what a young child would experience when their parents have gone away, even if it's just out for the night or the parents have gone on a vacation themselves or something, when the kid is just heartbroken about being alone, abandoned by his parents or her parents. The second kind of loneliness is, I think, less severe, and it's called social loneliness or social isolation. Here, at the childhood level, it's the experience of how a kid feels over summer vacation when his next-door neighbors are gone somewhere else. You know, you're just kind of down in the dumps. You're moping around, lonely, not as painful as the emotional loneliness.


And that can be experienced around conditions of absent friends, collegial relationships, or feeling marginalized within community life. One of the key needs that human beings have is to be accepted by at least one group as a valued member of that group. That's an important need that human beings have. And when that gets threatened or when that seems rocky, then these sorts of emotional, these social isolation and social loneliness issues will come up. Interestingly enough, people who are chronically lonely seem to be incapable of maintaining close, emotional, and secure relationships. It's almost as though the loneliness causes them to play out the insecurity that is going on within them. So until they deal with the issues of loneliness, their relationships are going to end up making them feel lonely.


They'll create the problem for themselves over and over again until the issues around loneliness are corrected. What could you look for if you were looking for signs of pathological loneliness? These would be folks who have a pretty severe fear of rejection and abandonment. This is that emotional isolation that I talked about. They have non-lasting but sometimes very passionate infatuations with people, so they kind of start, but it doesn't sustain. Relationships don't sustain. The experience of loneliness is acutely painful for some people when it's severe, acutely painful. And these folks may sometimes be working to escape this through drugs or alcohol or sex. You'll often notice some kind of chronic emotional problems, either kind of a fairly constant level of anxiety


or a fairly constant level of depression. In addition to dealing with the pain by drugs and alcohol and sex, they also can deal with their loneliness by throwing themselves into work. Now, not everyone that is convicted about their work and finds that important and throws oneself into it is pathologically lonely. I'm not saying that, but this is another way in which people can deal with that. What helps? What helps are having kind of a balanced sense of network of relationships. Let me just draw what that might look like. So we'll have two extremes here for kind of a more typical individual.


It's going to have some family and friends and community. We'll talk from a religious life here. And then social, other. Someone who suffers from more pathological loneliness the lonely person here, doesn't have the rich diversity of numerous family and community, social and friends. Just got a couple here and there. Their network is really quite limited. The problem with an individual who has limited networks is what happens when, here's Brother Lonely in the center here, he starts on Friday night, has a phone call and is upset with his parents


because they forgot to remember his birthday. So he's kind of upset with them. And then his next door neighbor was complaining to him because he's being very distracting and not allowing the other guy to pray. All right, so that's it. He's got three people that he's kind of at odds with, at least temporarily. For this poor soul here, that's half of his emotional support down the tubes. He's got fewer people to turn to. This tends to accentuate and exacerbate the difficulties that he's experiencing and tends to pull him in closer to himself and more separate from other people. The benefit of having a wider range of relationships is the greater capacity to find emotional support when you need it. Let me turn the tables here on Brother Lonely. Maybe it's not that he's done something wrong with these people.


Maybe his parents are upset because I-29 is going through their backyard. They don't have time to be talking with him right now. They're too worried about saving their flower garden or something. And maybe his conferring community is having some kind of crisis of faith right now and just doesn't have the emotional reserves to reach out. So Brother Lonely's not done anything, but he's still in the same situation, isn't he? Half of his emotional supports are gone. So by having and maintaining a richer array of relationships that allows you to have a broader capacity for gaining emotional support and help when you need it, it lets you have more conflict-free relationships as well. If you have a variety of people with whom you can relate, you don't always have to be worried about having to keep things just so with the few friends that you do have. And any of you who have ever been in a relationship with someone who has a hard time forming relationships


and so he's got to keep the few that he has working, you just know what an energy drain that is because the person is always, you know, did I upset you? I think we're a little off base here. I'm not opposed to those sorts of conversations, but I think three times a day is a little much for those. You know what I mean when people are too concerned about or always wanting to analyze relationships because they want to keep things right. Also, it allows a person to be more free because there is something that's alternately called group tyranny or the tyranny of the weak or the tyranny of the minority. When people don't have a wide array of people with whom they can be in relationship with, they may feel controlled by the few friends they have and end up moving in directions in their life, for example,


that they perhaps might not like to do. So clues are to stop and think about what your own relationships are like. Even though you've come to a monastic community and you have your brothers here for relationship, from my perspective, it's important to work on maintaining and healing as necessary relationships with family and friends. The opportunity that we have to kind of come to know ourselves better in our prayer life with God and in our bumping up and rubbing shoulders and everything else with our brothers, we come to see what our own weaknesses are and how we've done things perhaps that have contributed to whatever estrangements there may be in family and friends and others. And I think it's incumbent upon us to reach out to them and to do what we can to work those out.


It'll be good for them and it will be good for us in the long run as well. Okay, those are some discussion starter topics, I hope, on loneliness and community and solitude. Let me just end this by reading a quote here about friendship and loneliness. Friendship cannot be possessed. One must give oneself over to friendship, that is, allow the friendship to take possession of one's being, whereas the response of loneliness involves a heightening of self-consciousness. The response of friendship entails and demands a decrease of self-consciousness. Friendship deludes the self-conscious individual and is denied to the egotistical or self-centered person. To have friendship, one has to let go. Okay, comments or questions on these topics?


I think we're fortunate by this guest ministry, and it's not a huge one, but we have people who come and they tend to establish friendships and come again and again, and I think that's a resource. My experience, also knowing other monks, is it's from within the monastery that one can heal relations with family. It's amazing that people you weren't even talking to in a familial group suddenly you came up and opened the phone and things, so you can be a healing time. See, I think the experience of solitude allows these sorts of unfinished issues to bubble up as we kind of grow in our self-awareness and our deepening faith and prayer life. That's been an experience with people like myself and people that I've worked with as well. We have gone from a somewhat smaller community to a community of about 24, and we were once taught the language of primary relationships


and secondary relationships, and I've heard it argued that it's very difficult to have an extremely intimate, deep relation with as many as 24, and I was at St. John's College where we would have 100 and some in the same building, etc. So as you get bigger, you get... But my hope is that each person can develop immediately around a group of more intimate friends, and that these are open groups that are related in various ways with other groups, so that hopefully the size could be advantageous because everyone could find some kind of buddy, friend, or two or three, and still this attempt to have a good, positive, cordial relation with others and then accepting the inevitable conflict, etc. But I would think our size, at its best, might be not too big and yet not too small, but realizing that we just can't be on intimate relations with everyone. That's right. And it's helpful when these networks here, especially when you think of the individual and the community here, if there's kind of cross-pollination.


So it's not just that it's that group that takes care of themselves and no one else, but that some of these community members are kind of friends with other people as well, so there's an opportunity for greater interconnection with people. And as your community shifts from kind of a smaller place to a larger place, that's going to place demands on shifting relationships within the community as well. As you have more new people coming in, that also will color what the experience of the community will be like as well. And if those issues are just on the table, that makes it easier than not having them talked about. Is it realistic to talk about friendship with someone


that you're never going to see on a regular basis? I suspect that it is realistic. It will require some changes in the relationship. The kind of contact that you'll have through telephone or letters is not quite the same as those sorts of relationships where you can have those more frequent face-to-face contacts. But yes, I think a friendship can be maintained that way. It requires more work. People are less good these days at writing letters. That seems to be like an 18th and 19th century capacity, and I'm always pleasantly surprised, because I'm not good at that. I'm easier to pick up the phone or drop an email note or something rather than sit down and write a long letter. But I have a few friends that are very good at that, and I value that.


And there's a different kind of connection that comes from that than from just the personal. Sometimes I think that there's a more deep level of sharing through letters than through face-to-face. Sometimes. Sometimes. Why is there such a difference in treatment of introversion by different psychological tests? Myers-Briggs treats it one way, in a healthy way, while MMPI treats it as a disorder. Well, you see, MMPI doesn't really address the subject of introversion. They address scale zero. That has to do more with social isolation than it does with introversion. And it was designed to be kind of a more pathological scale. But there is a correlation between those two. I want to say that I'm pretty sure that there is from what I'm remembering of that.


So, part of it is, when you're talking about what different tests do, you have to understand very specifically how it was designed to do it. And the MMPI was designed to look more at a pathological sense of distancing from other people. As far as the effeminate side of it, I noticed something like with us in the community, the male community, you have outside friends that would be in contact with females. And I noticed, at least one time, that they have more of a tendency to write, more of a tendency to, you know, a lot of things that, at least myself, would be more of a get on the phone and call somebody. So, I don't know if there's any thought on a psychological level that enriches our life.


You mean opposite sex relationships? Yeah, it does. It does. It does tend to enrich one's relationships. The greater variety of different characters in our lives tends to enrich us and challenge us to further growth. There's, in the past few years, been more of an increase in studying relationships. And some of the findings are that men, in fact, seem to have an easier time sharing their emotional sides with a woman rather than with another man. And so we'll value those sorts of friendships with women in order to be able to do that. And then, I think, the task for us is to work on transferring that and working on sharing our emotional sides with other men as well. Because that's, if we want to work on really enriching ourselves in each other and deepening our same-sex relationships at a level of intimacy,


that's one of the things that needs to be worked toward over time. Men have a sense of kind of reciprocity about this. It's like, I'll share this emotional tidbit about me, but then you better share one back or I'll never do it again. I mean, they're not going to quite say it that way, but that's often the case. What happens is that we're kind of very careful about how we do that. We'll take a chance. Men's feelings are kind of very easily hurt around these emotional issues. Perhaps in other areas not so much, but around these, these tend to be rather risky for them, and they are kind of cautious. To your point, I think, Daniel, isn't that brought out in these tapes? The shadow. I talked about the same thing, how men invest themselves in relationships.


I think so. That men need to work increasingly more on investing themselves, because it's so difficult to do so pre-quid pro quo development. And that we're always measuring, or we're always investing conditionally. Well, I think it's true. There's a way in which men have a... If you go back to this notion I talked about yesterday, of these early experiences with father around ethical issues, competition is a key element. We don't like to share necessarily, because we feel we're not going to quite measure up in some way. So even at the level of faith sharing, I think that should be kind of relatively conflict-free, right? We're among a group of monks. Well, it isn't actually, because what if you find out that he prays better than you do, or something?


On the one level, that's kind of an irrational thing to say, but at a gut level, these are some of the reactions people have. I'm going to end up being less than a monk than he is. These are concerns that we work toward, that we have to kind of work on resolving. Men, again, tend to operate more kind of shoulder-to-shoulder relationships, and less kind of eye-to-eye. The balance is shifted more to shoulder-to-shoulder, to eye-to-eye, and that tends to be reversed for women. Again, nothing particularly wrong with that. I mean, you get things done when you work shoulder-to-shoulder, and men often like to do things through shared activities. That's a way in which they share themselves, a way of being intimate with each other. One of our monks in our community is very much like that. It's very hard for him to talk unless we're going for a walk somewhere, so we are literally side-to-side when we're going. If he wants to go for a walk, I know he wants to talk about something,


and then he'll head off at this kind of very rapid pace, and then he's got longer legs than I do, so I'm forever trying to keep up with him. But we will have a conversation in there about something important at some point. I don't know if you're so comfortable with this question or not, but if you do feel comfortable about it, could you think about giving us some gut reactions as a Senebite coming into this situation here? If you have any alarms that go off, or if you have good things... ...he suffers a lot, he's suffering too much. What's the outcome? Is it his health? Yes, I think it could. You know, one of the best things for middle-aged men, in order to kind of keep them both psychologically and physically healthy, is having intimate relationships.


There's been some studies that indicate men in middle age are less likely to kind of get sick and have difficulties, both psychologically and physically, if they have important intimate relationships in their life. And what's the definition of middle age? For me, the definition of middle age is always one year older than I am. But at that mid-time in our life, when we're... ...oh, what is it called, different authors, you know, midlife crisis, the age 40 issues from Levinson, some kind of major shift that starts taking place, there are a certain amount of psychological upheaval, and if there's a way in which that can be shared with others, then it can be processed directly and doesn't have to be kind of sidetracked through our body, through physical problems. Or unaddressed issues around depression and anxiety, for example, too. It requires careful work to help someone who tends to be more lonely,


because remember, sometimes therapy is needed for this, but I think if you were to think how might you address this in a community, being aware that the tendency is to replay problematic relationships just by kind of wanting to be a friend to them initially won't be enough. What it will require is the ability to point out to them, look, every time I try and get closer, something happens in our relationship here, and I'd like to see that not happen. Is there a way we can work on this? I mean, that's taking a risk on your part to reach out to someone and help them kind of confront the way in which they're replaying their own lonely experiences. They're not usually doing that on purpose, but they're doing it because that's kind of how they expect life to be like. So the opportunity to have a new experience with another person can be quite transforming. The potential is there for that.


You mentioned how a diversity of friends can enrich. We try not to be ideological here, except only those who are concerned with you. So we do get a pluralistic community in terms of all approaches to theology and church, and I think at its best that could be expanding. And then the age range. Sometimes, I guess, in the world, you choose your own group, and they're all more or less your own. But to go from Brother Philip, who's 88, to someone who's 29, again, at its best, that's exciting. People from very different cultural backgrounds, et cetera. But it does take work. I understand that some communities are really polarized about this issue or that. I don't think it's happened here yet, and I think ongoing work can really help. And I have a couple of thoughts about why I think it gets polarized and what you can do to prevent that or to work on it. It's hard once it starts to work towards shifting that.


My sense is that the polarization takes place because, in my personal views here, undue emphasis and importance is placed on particular ideological stances. So whether one tends to be, let's say, theologically liberal or theologically conservative, either side, if large parts of your sense of yourself is over-identified with that viewpoint, so that hearing someone else who thinks differently than you is not just having an intellectual disagreement with you but is attacking yourself, that's where the polarization starts. When there is, I think, this is not the only explanation for it, but when there's a too fragile sense of oneself and we have to identify too strongly with movements or ideas to define ourselves,


then we're not in a position to kind of separate ourselves from those and engage in some discussion around that. And once that process starts, it sets all sorts of things into play in community life. So many things immediately go underground as a result of that, because then it's kind of impossible to do any sharing, even on areas where there might be some agreement. No one wants to talk to each other about things. Tremendous anger develops. It gets pushed underground. It erupts. And that only reinforces the need not to talk about things. Then it gets very complicated to break out of that. And you're saying that you have a pretty good chance for give-and-take right now in your community with those issues. What you would want to do to make sure that it kind of stays that way is if you start noticing some people who are kind of taking too much of a stance on that or are kind of too tied up, address that issue early on and directly,


nicely but directly, and help people work towards keeping a balance. I think there's something very energizing and life-giving about the kind of important give-and-take, even about important issues that one holds deep in one's heart. But to be able to engage in a give-and-take allows for the chance to listen to each other, which my experience in Polarized communities is that there is no listening. No listening at all. There are pronouncements. And that's it. Of course, the typical model of life can be overdone too. Too much family, too many friends, or praying too much. Right. So the Benedictine model of virtue of balance is really what comes into play, doesn't it? You have to keep that balance. And the balance may shift at different times. It could be that in stages of someone's life that they may have to give some additional time to healing family relationships,


and so they spend more time or visit family more often. Or maybe that some community relationships have suffered, and so they need to cut back on work or other involvements and just work on kind of being and getting reconnected with the community. These would be kind of, I think, important individual needs that would help the eventual building up of the community. Well, having a wide network of friends and people that you're close to doesn't necessarily mean that you have to invest a great percentage of your time in that. You can still be, I presume that if you're in commerce with them, you have exchanges of love and intimacy, you could sustain value trends. You may not have to spend, you know, because of your relationship, you don't spend five hours a day with them. Right. It's not like you go to the Father Prior and say, you know, I really need my own telephone, because I really have to have an hour a day with each of my six friends to keep the relationship going.


Most of you will have had the experience of people that you're close to, but that you don't always have frequent conversations with them or frequent times with them. And you may have, at least initially in the relationship, the fear that by being apart from them we're going to drift apart. And that's true for some relationships, but for others that really maintain themselves, you can not meet except every once in a while or talk, but you go right to the heart of the matter, don't you? I mean, some of us, I think, have had that experience. Yeah, that's true for P.D. and me. That's true. We don't see each other all that often, and since it's hard for him to get on the phone and I don't write, that makes it more difficult. But then when we get back together again, it's very easy to get to that level of intimacy that's been there and maintains itself. I know, to me, it's refreshing because some of my friends think maybe you've lost something, and you go back and you get this sensation that it hasn't changed. To me, it's really refreshing, and it reinforces the friendship


that you know that through the long haul it's still there. And I think the other benefit of that is that it enriches one's community relationships as well. Good relations with family and friends outside of the community enrich one's relationships because you come away from that energized. More to share with others. Enriched by it. You have more to give them. When you were talking about the community is not family, and that was something in the friend systems we argued a lot because they put the word family in so many things in official documents, and we were struggling with this issue that in reality this is not so, we're not related. And you would hear this used in homilies and everything else,


and it seemed to push a lot of buttons that are sometimes stirring up things that need not be, or issues that people had somewhat worked past our head. And then when the issue of trying to find a barometer of what is really right, these big community decisions, or what is community good, like you were saying, sometimes the community good has to supersede the individual, but I was wondering if you could explicate a bit on how does the community arrive at such a choice that it is really acting on the common good. For example, one of the hard things that is difficult to deal with is people who consider themselves a corporate representative of the community, whether it's an individual or a group. When an individual comes up and says to you, well we think that you're doing the pots and pans wrong, and that becomes a statement of the community's consciousness.


And that this is done very arbitrarily, and strangely enough, in my experience, at times other people would get networked together into the same kind of shadow of that, and keep using without dealing. And I was wondering if you could maybe explain a bit how an individual deals vis-a-vis that and the community keeps its consciousness, that it has to be, I think, how vigilant or prudent. Right. I think it comes down to how important it is to have a kind of a corporate sense of identity that gets discussed at a level that is not too specific. One of the things that drives me wild in my community is when someone will say, either to me or to others, that something is not, quote, monastic. And that's a button that will push me off any time. Ice cream sandwich bars, apparently, according to one monk,


are not monastic. And I just want to say, based on what? Can you give me an explanation of what this is about? The problem is that the attempt to kind of legislate what is and isn't a corporate identity at that level, I think, is a mistake. It has to be done at a larger group, not group, at a higher level of abstraction. It's very useful to be able to say, why were we founded? And to have a couple sentences about that. What is it that we really want to be doing? What are the important values in our life that we subscribe to? How do we live those out? What are the general principles that we operate from? And have some consensus about those sorts of issues. Smaller communities have an easier chance of doing that than do larger communities. So I think that's a first place to start,


is to start addressing those issues. From a psychological level, when you've got folks kind of telling you that you're not doing it in a community way, that can be a sign sometimes that of those kind of smaller and meshed communities that I was talking about, that are very dependent, interrelated, where it has to be done a certain way, that the chance of trying something new, even if you wash the pans a little differently, isn't quite right. It's like it's not done that way here. That's a sign that there may be a bit too much kind of closing in unnecessarily around something as small as that. That would be a different thing if you said that you wanted to start being a parish priest somewhere, and someone says, well, we don't really do that here. That would operate from a different level of abstraction, wouldn't it? You could make more sense of that. Does that address some of the issues? Okay. It seems to be a kind of chronic experience


in community at different points, and especially when the enmeshment is there, but it's sort of like a phantom that sometimes is not consciously addressed. I think if we kind of look, not in this community, but outside of some other ones in general, I think what happens is when a community starts getting out of touch with its own historical roots, and the changes that it needs to continue to make to be in touch with the needs of society and the world, the needs of the Church, the people then start holding on to accidentals as ways of defining themselves. And if that's all you hold on to, my view is you'll end up with a dead community in a while. The way you describe that is, that's why that language problem with family pushes buttons. It sometimes reinforces that idea of enmeshment.


I think of the family system, that a person grows out of the role they played in their family, gets played out again, or rehearsed again in a situation that is completely different. Right. At an unconscious level, it brings out at least two sets of feelings. One is, I don't want to have a family like I had before, or I'm not getting here what I got from my family, so don't call this a family. Either way, they're not going to want to call it a family. I think that's a mistake to do that, to use that particular analogy. Well, we're a little after eleven, so we'll stop. Thank you.