January 27th, 1995, Serial No. 00110

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All right, we'll wrap up the presentation today.
I use, when I do an extended series like this, I like to use the last day to always say the
things I meant to say better, to say them a second time, cover things I forgot to say
when I was going through other things, answer questions that come up, and in addition have
a whole slate of other new material to present as well.
So I'll combine all that in one presentation here.
We've been talking about monastic community living from a particular perspective or orientation,
and that is from self and others.
And I've been stressing with you throughout the week the nature of the ongoing development
for our capacity to be and to love, that it is something that begins shortly after our
physical birth, our psychological birth, begins to develop after that in the context
of relationships with others, and those early experiences have a profound and lasting impact
on us and on our future life.
However, for a vast majority of us that is not enough to completely finalize the product.
We're always unfinished.
Our sense of being continues to need refinement and certainly our relationships, our capacity
for loving, need to be growing as well if we want to work on that.
The capacity is always there.
The question is do we always choose to work on it?
And the fact is that we don't.
There are some periods in our life when we don't, when we stop kind of working on the
growth process.
Hopefully we get challenged either from inside or outside to begin the process again.
So the starting and stopping is not unusual, in fact, rather typical.
And there are at least three sorts of things that we're working on.
We're looking at the process of understanding and loving both ourselves, and that includes
all of the various selves with a small s that I've touched on just a few of them, and we'll
spend a little more time on that today.
On others, those with whom we have relationships with, and although that of course has to do
with our current relationships, the people who are in our lives right now, there's another
way to think about this notion of the others, and that is some of the work that often needs
to be done to heal old relationships, even after people have died, and so they're not
actually here with us to do it, but we have an image, an aspect of them that we've taken
in ourselves, and part of this kind of loving means kind of going back and reworking some
of these older relationships.
Now, it's ideal if you can do that when the people are still alive, and that makes it
much easier, but even if people have died, I think we, my perspective is that we have
both the opportunity and I think the responsibility to ourselves to kind of rework some of those,
especially if they were very troubled and problematic relationships, because if we don't
do that inner working and some of that healing, it tends to spill over, color, and jade our
other relationships.
The thing to avoid most of all, I think, is the development of a sense of bitterness,
wherever that comes from.
It's interesting how psychology and psychiatry these days is getting a little bit less empirical
and moving to another dimension.
I was reading an eminent empirical scholar, and at the end of his book he starts talking
about kind of difficult people, and he makes this comment, which I thought was a very important
He said there are some things that he thinks just can't be changed in any kind of therapeutic
relationship, and he said one of those things is bitterness.
That when people become embittered, that they become, perhaps from our expression or experience
or tradition, so hardened of heart that it's impossible to shift.
You don't usually hear psychiatrists talk about those sorts of things, but I think it's
an important warning to us that if we don't work on kind of dealing with some of our
past relationships, that can contribute to the inability to form current ones, that can
and I think does interfere with our relationship with God and can lead to a sense of embitteredness
if we're not careful about that.
That's an extreme reaction.
However, most of us will know some people who have some degree of bitterness, and I'll
be talking about one such person a little bit later when I discuss compassion.
And then the other or God, I don't want to say it goes without saying because it shouldn't
go without saying.
It should be said a lot that the process that we're involved here is this integrated understanding
and interrelatedness of ourself, others, and God.
So my feeble attempt to kind of give some diagram to that, I wanted to put self, God,
and others in some kind of dynamic interchange there, and that someone called it the rain
on the background there is my attempt to say that this sort of relationship of self, God,
and others occurs in a context.
Of course, the self context that we all bring to it is our own past experience, but the
broader context here to be thinking about this as a community is the fact that you are
a monastic community, that you are particularly a Kamal Dali's monastic community, and this
is Big Sur, California, Kamal Dali's monastic community, not Italy or Tanzania or other
places as well.
So that will color it as well.
OK, this notion of being and loving is such a critical one, and I began on Monday by
outlining just a few possible ways in which some of that being and loving can go wrong.
And I want to talk briefly today about those again, but this time highlighting ways that
you can think about how you might address that if at some point in your life those
issues arise for you.
And I want to tell you that I think that they will at some point.
You don't have to be severely psychologically disturbed to have those sorts of issues come
We all have them.
It's part of the normal process of being human that we're incomplete, and at different times
we're going to have these experiences.
So I want to pose some additional questions for you to consider thinking about if and
when you find yourself in these situations.
These aren't the only questions, but they are some that might help you in understanding
it. The first one I talked about is that I need you to convince me that I exist.
What you can ask yourself about that is what am I perceiving at this time that seems to
be a threat to my selfhood?
What's going on either internally or externally that seems to be a threat to my selfhood?
It's leading me to act in this way.
The second one I had is I need you to tell me who I am.
The question that we can ask ourselves here is what is making me fearful of increasing
my self-definition and self-expansion?
Remember, I indicated that we're caught in this polarity of identity maintenance and
identity formation, you know, the push to go forward and grow along with the pull to
just kind of keep things as they are.
So the question we can ask ourselves, why am I afraid?
What's engendering this fear, this reluctance in me to expand myself?
The third one was I need you to keep me from feeling lost.
So the question here is what's happening in my life that I'm feeling lost and at sea
besides the rain here, which is kind of turn this whole thing into an ocean?
What's making us feel lost?
Certainly transitions are a key part of that.
Those of you who are new to this community should expect to have some experience of that.
It would be typical because your worlds are changing and you're going through a lot of
changing, you're in a different setting, perhaps a very different setting, and there
would be some expectation of feeling kind of lost and without anchor.
And part of it is acknowledging that some of these things are expectable and also transient,
that this will go away.
It helps to, I'm a great believer in understanding as a means of kind of helping control
anxiety. It doesn't take care of everything.
I don't believe that understanding is the be-all, that's too heady, but it sure helps
sometimes. The next one I had was, I need you to make me perfect.
The question here to ask is, what am I afraid of owning about myself that I consider bad,
in quotes?
What do I have to project onto others that I can't tolerate and accept within myself?
What do I have to see as bad in others because I can't tolerate seeing it as bad in me?
So when you're up to it, when you've got the gumption, you can work on a list of what
it means to be bad to you and work towards understanding it.
Many of these are kind of irrational, yet very powerful, and I often think that the
things that people think are bad about themselves are things that they have not fully
understood or integrated or owned, things they may feel guilty or ashamed about.
I need you to make me feel good about being me, the need to have others kind of always
propping us up and building us up.
So the question here is, in what way am I not accepting who I am?
Have I not really kind of owned and feel comfortable with the values that undergird and
guide my life, would be one question to think about here.
And the last one I mentioned was that I need you to measure me against.
Questions here is, what is so important about fighting?
Why is it that I need to fight a lot?
What is that a sign of for me to think about that?
Or what issues in my life am I trying to control in me by controlling others?
A few other questions kind of more generally that we can ask ourselves would be, what's so
hard about me letting people be who they are?
Oftentimes it's because my experience of who people were for me in the past was kind of
short on goodness and long on badness.
So that's why we have to believe we have to work on controlling them.
The experimentation is, can I let people be who they are and see that there might be
something that good will come out of that relationship?
A more fundamental question for us to be thinking about throughout our lives is, what
makes it hard for me to acknowledge myself to me and to share that with others?
That's, of course, the overarching question that we struggle with.
And I think the answers to these questions come from three areas.
They come from our own self-reflection.
I think they can come from our interactions and discussions with other people, important
people in our lives.
And I think in a very important way, they come when we take these same questions to
And I think that reflecting on these in a prayerful way is a way of consciously inviting
God to help us in this process.
Some other issues that I stressed this week were friendship, intimacy, and celibacy.
Because, you know, this relationship, if we're looking for an intimate friendship and
relationships with God and others, that part of the context is the monastic life as
the monastic life is the monastic life, the monastic life is the monastic life of the
you people live it here.
One of the aspects of monastic life is the vowed life of chastity, celibate chastity,
depending on how you want to go about describing that.
So that has to, I think, color the way in which we live out our relationships.
And that would be different than people who do not follow a vowed way of living.
So I mean, that's kind of goes without saying, but it's important to remember that
I guess I like to think about kind of like general principles.
What are some general principles that then allow for people to think about how they
want to live their life?
That's some of the residual tea in me from my earlier life before I found my true F
after leaving the hard sciences and getting into psychology, as one of our monks calls
it, the suedo science of psychology.
Anyway, I still like to think back to some larger principles.
It's organizing for me.
What do we need?
We need to operate out of a sense of integrity, balance, self-knowledge, consistency and
The area that gives many people a lot of difficulty in religious, I don't want to say
I think in all aspects of living, because this is not peculiar just to religious, is
the area of sexuality and then need to look at that in the context of celibacy as well.
I think it's an area that many people have a great deal of difficulty with integrating
and owning and achieving some balance, some consistency and some self-knowledge.
People tend to be fairly unaware in many cases and need to grow in that area.
And that's true for monastic men as well.
And I'm more my own personal experience, obviously, and my work with others has to
do primarily with men's communities.
So I'm only going to talk about that.
I don't want to generalize to women's communities.
I suspect that their issues are likely different than men's in some way, but there
probably are some similarities.
But I don't know enough to comment on that.
And an area that often comes up in discussion, usually not in large group meetings like
this, but usually on one-to-one conversations, are questions about sexuality and
masturbation in particular, and how to understand that and to make sense of that within
the monastic context, within the sense of celibacy.
And that's, of course, I think a very good question.
It's a complicated one, and there are many levels on which to think about that.
And whole talks could be given on the topic.
I want to just highlight a couple of key elements that I think are worth considering and
thinking about.
And we have time for discussion.
We could talk about that.
Again, I'm available for visiting with people.
There are many ways to think about the notion of celibacy in general.
There's one to take an acts approach, ACTS, versus taking a process approach to celibacy
and growth in celibacy.
There can be some problems when individuals focus too much on the act itself of either
masturbation or intercourse or whatever it happens to be, rather than seeing it within
the context of a process.
Richard Seip, who is a former Benedictine from St. John's, I believe, now lives out
in the East Coast, has a definition that I want to offer here.
He says that celibacy is a freely chosen dynamic state, usually vowed, and that the part here
I want to emphasize is an honest and sustained attempt to live without sexual gratification
in order to serve others productively from a spiritual motive.
That quotation is in his book.
You have the book here in your library.
It's called The Secret World.
It's an interesting book.
Now, he'll give you some set of numbers in there if you're interested in reading that.
The issue of masturbation is one that is of concern to a vast majority of male religious.
His numbers estimate that perhaps at some point or another in their monastic life,
well over 80%—not just monastic, religious life—well over 80% have had some issues
around masturbation, and I suspect that it's at least that or higher from my experience.
The question I would say is this, is to think about this from the perspective of what is
the meaning associated with this?
To help you understand this more carefully in your own life, these are, I think, important
things to think about.
From a psychological standpoint, kind of leaving aside—well, let me just approach it from
there—but no evidence that there is anything in and of itself inherently pathological
with masturbation.
Can it be a sign or a symptom of difficulties in someone's life?
You bet, it can.
There are some people who suffer from compulsive masturbation and have really no control over
that in their lives, or other sorts of compulsive sexual acting out.
Sometimes masturbation can be a symptom of other kinds of disorders in individuals, and
evaluations are needed to help sort that out.
So I'm not talking about that subgroup, because that does exist.
I'm talking about the run-of-the-mill, typical male religious who is trying to understand
and own and live out a process of celibacy in his life.
Things to think about are what might be some kind of rhythm or pattern with one's own
sexual feelings.
Remember I discussed that men often suffer from chronic arithmicity, the need to pay
attention to our own sexual cycles when our sexual feelings are stronger and less strong,
and also to think in terms of that versus other aspects of our life.
It's a mistake to isolate our genital sexual feelings as separate from other areas of
our life.
Everything, from my perspective, is of one piece, is interrelated.
And again, remember men's tendency, at least some men, maybe no one here, but at least
some men tend to have diminished range of emotional expression and awareness of feelings.
Remember I said they either feel on or they feel off.
So sexual feelings and masturbation following from that can mean many different things.
And so the task is to work towards understanding it.
Is it an expression of loneliness?
If so, what kind of things need to be done to address loneliness in my life?
Is it an expression of anger?
If so, are there some other ways in which I need to be addressing anger?
Is it a method of tension reduction?
If so, might there be other ways of reducing tension rather than relying on this?
Is it a sense of self-soothing?
If so, how do I need to make some shifts in other areas of my life?
I'm more inclined when I work with people around this to help them think in this way
rather than, even if they come to me and say, you know, I just want to stop this,
so please help me stop it.
I'm less inclined to say, okay, I'll get you a prescription for Depo-Provera.
That will stop it, or any other things that probably would not be particularly effective.
Because I think it does stand for something, and I think it needs to be understood.
Sometimes the efforts just to stop it are reflective of more deep-seated,
kind of repressive tendencies.
And I believe that there are some people who have never masturbated in their lives,
never had any sexual expression, who are priests, monks, who are not celibates.
Not celibates.
Now, why might I say something like that?
Because all that they're concerned about is a repression of their sexual feelings.
These people can tend to be constricted, split off, two-dimensional.
They have denied a whole part of their existence.
The sense of vitality and liveliness is gone from them.
And then if something happens so that that defensive barrier doesn't hold anymore,
and by and large it will happen to people at some time or another in their life,
what do you suppose happens?
It erupts in them.
It just erupts.
And all of the kind of denied sexual feelings come out with such a vengeance
that they're just completely unprepared for it.
That's a classic example of where there's a real decrease in self-knowledge in this area.
The other thing I want to say about that is that to consider that aspect,
our sexual selves, in conjunction with our whole self,
to give it too much attention and focus gives it too much power, I believe.
And I also believe that it can be healthy to have opportunities and avenues and people
with whom you can discuss your own very personal and very real work and progress towards celibacy.
There's some way in which you can read everything there is about it, and there's a lot,
and that will be of necessity incomplete and inherently unsatisfying.
I guess I'm of the opinion these days that it's somehow,
it's only learned and developed in the context of community.
I think it works much better.
That's why I think it's never easy, somewhat easier, for monastic men as compared to
diocesan priests because of the support of community.
And then in a way of sharing one's own growth and struggles with this with other people,
that I think is a way of capitalizing on the help of many brothers.
It is so much a part of the monastic tradition.
So our sexual side can be an important barometer for other imbalances in our life
as we're working towards keeping intimate, celibate friendships in the broadest sense
of all three of those terms with ourselves, with God, and with others.
Let me talk a little bit about compassion as an important area that I think,
from my perspective, is an essential part of community living.
One, I'm going to give you a couple here.
One is that it's a selfless behavior, compassion, motivated by a compelling altruistic love.
Selfless behavior motivated by a compelling altruistic love.
And from my perspective, this compelling component to it is the act and action and grace of God.
The ability for us to be compassionate in the fullest sense of that term is the
movement of God in our hearts and spilling over into our relationships with others.
Matthew Fox, and you can like some things he says and not like other things he says,
as I do, has this quote.
You may call God love, you may call God goodness, but the best name for God is compassion.
So he likes to highlight that as a very important name.
A lot of Old Testament themes for the role of compassion and how that is very much an
attribute of God.
And so it makes sense then to see that divine element spilling out, that attribute of God
kind of welling up within us.
What it isn't is pity.
If compassion brings people together and knocks down barriers and fosters relationships in
the broadest sense, pity separates, pity distances.
And I think relating to people from a sense of pity is a far cry from a true expression
of compassion.
It's a useful, and I think fruitful, exercise to look through the Bible, the scriptures,
and to see examples of God's manifestation of compassion.
We'll find if we look that God's compassion is unconditional and inclusive, so then we
need to be asking ourselves, how about us?
And of course, we need to be asking ourselves, how about God?
Of course, we're going to come up short on that, because given our own conflicts and
imperfections with being and loving, it's likely that our expressions of compassion
will be somewhat conditional.
Do we make judgments about who gets it from us and who doesn't, who we're going to be
compassionate to?
We can always look at ourselves, honestly, and wonder what, you know, kind of be in awe
at the compassion that God has given to us, since probably in many ways we perhaps don't
deserve it either.
Another interesting thing, especially with Jesus, is that he seemed to reach out to people
who were getting what they deserved.
A lot of the folks had done some objectively wrong things and were being punished.
That didn't stop Jesus from reaching out and sharing with them and touching them in
important ways.
And in community life, we can have struggles with people, with rivals or opponents, folks
that have hurt us, lied to us, betrayed us, diminished us in some ways.
Can we be open to reaching out?
I think holding on to a sense of compassion as a kind of a cornerstone can be a creative
element in our lives.
And it can be that fragile spark that can burst forth into important experiences of reconciliation
and connectedness and then further growth with each other.
And this is when I'm reminded of that.
I have that quote now from Teilhard de Chardin, and I just didn't do a very good job of
reporting to you last time.
Here it is.
Someday after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for
God the energies of love.
And then for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.
I like that.
That's kind of an evocative saying of his that's very appealing.
Concretely, there are three elements that I think contribute to the role of compassion.
It's a disposition of solidarity toward our brother's suffering, and that includes everyone
here in this room plus our larger neighbors, the world.
Secondly, it's an act of entering into that suffering as one's own, not looking at it
and feeling sorry for people from the distance of pity, but engaging in it more fully.
And a commitment to overcoming the cause of that suffering itself.
It's not enough just to acknowledge it, but it requires the commitment.
And that's the fraternal love, at least at the very least, that's called for all of us
in a community to bring that forward, to move towards that.
And another quote that I think that talks about how important it is to and yet difficult
to make that suffering our own is from Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
He says this, if only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds
and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and to destroy them,
just like that.
But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
I think that's a powerful statement that he puts there and reminds us to remember that
the sharing that we have with people is not only in their good times, but when we reach
out in compassion to people who are hurt and in pain and something's wrong with them,
we are being in touch with that kind of hurt and pain and wrongness within ourselves.
And I think the potential there is for transforming of our own hurt and pain through the reaching
out in relationships to other people as well.
Let me stop here and spend some time with questions and discussion about anything I've
covered today or what I've talked about in the week or what I've not talked about.
And then I'll just have a few closing comments I'll make at the very end before we stop
for the presentation.
I've read your comments on the quote you gave us from Michael Fox that you can call
a lot of love or what, but the best name is compassion.
I think public is quoting from a mystic, and I think it's very much supported by the first
death of John, where we find a statement that God is love, God is a God.
He uses the word agave, but probably behind is minus the Hebrew word hesed, which is a
compassionate love.
And the content he gives is exactly a compassionate love, but it's that God is love, not love.
It manifests in this, that he sent his only son to the world to be a sacrifice or expiation
for our sins in order that we may have life.
So the whole explanation is compassionate manifestation of the love of God.
It comes from Exodus, too.
The description of God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast love and
faithfulness would be an Old Testament Exodus citation of that, too.
When you were talking earlier about why we need others, is it one that I need others
to show that I exist?
Is that the thing that I've built up as my false self, that I need you or another person
to show me that a false self exists, or is it really...
It's more fundamental than that.
I guess I don't quite understand...
Well, that's good.
If you don't understand it, then you're not particularly struggling with it.
So that would be kind of a more fundamental issue.
That actually tends to be seen where it's a kind of ongoing common problem in people
who have some severe character pathologies, who really can't hold on to a sense of themselves
when there aren't others to support them.
They're kind of stuck developmentally at what it was like to be less than a year old
They need Ma to take care of things, otherwise they won't exist, and they have not developed
psychologically further along with that.
In the list of statements, questions you gave us, I was the one that you said,
I need you to make me perfect.
There's the one sentence, that one major cliche, people say there's a thin line between
love and hate, and I've actually always loved and hated that expression.
I think that in the context of that, there's a thin line between infatuation and hatred
sometimes, because what we project, sometimes what we call love or being in love or being
attracted to somebody, in my mind it's the same as that projection that I need you to
make me perfect.
And I'm even thinking of it in terms of the I, mine, whose thing.
I am attracted to somebody, and I think this goes all the way from friendship all the way
through infatuation and being in love.
I see in you something that is the rest of me, or something that I could possibly become,
or what I see in you makes me whole.
So, not just in the negative sense, I don't like something in you because I see it in
me, but also in the positive sense.
There's something in you that I want from you.
But where that can come in relationships to a pathology, it seems to me, is when I go
so far as to worship it in you and not develop it in me, and then maybe try to get it from
you instead of develop it in me.
Or the only way you can get it from me is to have me around you all the time, and to
have me be just this same way all the time.
Instead of finding that seed of what that is, instead of projecting that hero image
in a sense onto you and not developing it in myself.
When you see married couples where one spouse dies and the other spouse just falls to pieces,
I think how rough that must be, especially if the other spouse, I think it happens more
to men than women, has never developed what that woman was supposed to have brought forth
in the man.
And then sometimes you see the opposite happen.
Like I watched my grandmother die and my grandfather all of a sudden turned into this
loving man that he had never been in 76 years before.
So the projection of I need you to make me perfect and be all of us, sometimes the things
we consider good, like I have to love you, what do you mean by I have to love you?
Does that mean that, you know?
It depends on how we want to use that.
The notion of infatuation, seeing things in others that we like and would like to see
in ourselves.
Look, that is good.
Nothing wrong with that.
It becomes a problem when you can't let people change, when they have to stay that same way
and when they're like an interlocking piece of you so that you're not complete without
them staying just the way they are.
That's where it becomes more troublesome.
But to acknowledge that other people have qualities that we don't have, that we enjoy
and that we could be enriched by being around them, that's healthy.
That's acknowledging who we are and some things that we lack and acknowledging our
capacity to love and be in relationship and to encourage growth between them.
It seems to depend on whether it's dynamic or static in both senses.
Whether it freezes the other person freezes you at the same time.
Yes, that's a good way to put it.
Or whether it's a process.
Yeah, these frozen...
I'm kind of anathema against frozen things.
Frozen peas, frozen carrots.
There might be some people totally abstaining all through their life who are not celibate.
I think that's fascinating.
Somewhere I heard a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas about people that that also is a sin
against celibacy to fail in affective loving of others.
And I think we can so misunderstand the whole Catholic emphasis on immaculate impurity,
And that is not healthy.
How to plug into the Catholic reverence for the whole body and sexual and thus abstaining
as a new energy, etc.
Without getting caught in the darker stuff.
So I think that it develops into different sins.
Yeah, I think that there's a greater richness.
I don't have this sheet that I with me, but the Catholic Theological Association came
up with a list of kind of what's good sexuality, you know, and relationship enhancing, vital,
life-giving, you know.
So rather than defining it so much in what it shouldn't be, it was saying what it is,
the positive aspects of sexuality, including genital sexuality.
It was highlighting that.
And I think that's important.
I think there's an evolving process in the Church in understanding that these days.
I also appreciate very much what you pointed out, that two aspects of celibacy.
On one side, it's continence, it's being chaste or modesty, and so on.
But there's only one aspect.
It has to become completed by the other aspect as process, as development, deepening relationship,
outgoing, self-giving, both aspects of the same quality.
Yeah, it's a work in process throughout one's life, I think.
There's a story of two desert monks, and one prayed to God to be removed of all of his
And he was, and the line on there is, and so he was made impassable.
So I guess that must mean without passion.
Then he went to another father, and the father said, pray to God to have your passions restored,
for virtue is only gained through struggle.
And so he did that and struggled until his dying day.
That's an abbreviated story from the father.
Question from the audience.
It's a very psychological model.
There's one you can look at for entertaining to people who have been qualified saints,
who have been in love with God.
Who have been in love with God.
How to explain that psychologically?
Probably, I wonder what William Meisner, has anyone read William Meisner's book where
he does like a psychological study of Ignatius of Loyola?
I wonder if he doesn't try to address that issue in there somewhere.
I suspect that he probably would.
I haven't had a chance to read the book yet.
I'm not quite sure, but William Meisner, the Jesuit, he's a Jesuit psychiatrist,
He puts out about one 500 page book a year.
Amazing guy.
Someone who knew him said in seminary that this is a man when he would stand up, he talked
in paragraphs.
This all came out.
It would be interesting to see what he would say about the relationship that Ignatius and
Francis Avere shared.
They deeply loved each other and how he would integrate that with Ignatius' love for God.
Well, the monastic tradition, the Aylred and his work on spiritual friendship, there's
been lots of people writing these days about him, about what his sexual orientation was
or wasn't and what that all meant.
But that's, I think, getting more study these days as there's an interest in understanding
the role of the affective life in our relationships with each other and how enriching that can
Even in our ritual readings with the priest of Basil and Gregory, the wonderful friendship
that they share.
I often like Saint Joseph's wisdom in this approach.
He says, well, you can't be certain that you love God, but you can come to some understanding
if you love your neighbor.
Yeah, I like that.
It kind of makes it more real.
It prevents it from just being some kind of disembodied relationship.
Reminds us that we have bodies.
Now, that's for John.
How can you say you love God and you do not see what you do?
One point you made, and I understand it fully, but there might be another way to express
it also.
Let's be careful of characterizing the monastic community as family so we don't have unreal
expectations because I won't find my mommy here or my daddy.
Or you might.
But acknowledging through fraternal love that somehow Christ is our brother.
He says, whoever does know my father, he's the man.
So this whole thing, as I understand it, it's a model for the earliest Christian community
that comes at the beginning of the New Testament.
We are brothers and sharing.
How to live that not in an alienating way, but that in that sense, and not in another
sick sense, we are family.
And we have one father who is our Lord.
And then it's Paul who says something.
It's not that we take our early fathers and then project that onto God and say, well,
God is the father.
But there's that brief line that it's from God's fatherhood, the all-human fatherhood
So in a certain sense, this is a family that takes priority over our natural blood family.
The role of developing the fraternal relationship, that filios would be the word for love for
that, right?
I think that's friendship.
So I think that would be the one that, when I think of the various definitions or words
that I would think might apply to an understanding of what the relationships within community
When I say not to think of it as family, I would want to emphasize that it can't and
shouldn't be the same as one's human family.
And you can't have the same kind of needs met.
The relationship, just at a psychological level, the relationship paradigms are different.
The expectations are different.
The demands that are placed on people are different.
I think the New Testament sense of community highlights an important point.
Why do they come together for some larger purpose?
And it's around that that the brotherhood developed, isn't it?
It's this relationship with God and service to each other.
Psychologically, we do tend to put onto God what our biological fathers are like, even
though Paul tells us to do the opposite.
And the fact that that's there, the struggle we have, of course, is to, over time, work
to see the God that really is there and not the God that we create one way or another
in our lives.
And that's also kind of, I think, a lifelong task in our developing relationship with
God, is letting God be who God is instead of who we expect God to be.
In that line, I know an existential psychologist who himself had to do lots of therapy.
And I think he realized, here's how the line, that he was projecting a rather unpleasant
perspective on religion and didn't think it would have any impact on their lives and
how wrong we were.
Without Professor Tewksbury's comment, I would hate to throw the family image out
My experience around taking vows, just recently, the image of the marriage contract came up
a lot for me in the sense of, this is not my family of origin, but in a relative sense,
this is my family of choice.
You know, this is where I've looked at the place, I've decided, I think I can grow
old with these people and commit my life to these people.
So, though it's not the blood relation, just like a marriage is often based on that
initial attraction, love, heros.
So, after a couple of years here, I'm starting to think, well, this isn't all fun.
I may have to change somebody else's colostomy back at some point.
You know, I'm going to have to spend a year doing trash, or I'm going to have to do
It's not going to be all fun, but the longer I'm here, it's found in a deeper sense.
Like, when it's not fun, do I still choose?
You know, like in a marriage, when you're not in love anymore, the real love comes from
choosing to, in a sense, act as if, to choose to commit oneself to the dynamic process of
building love.
So, family in that kind of sense, I would hate to throw it out.
Words are our friends and our enemies, as we try and define concepts here.
So, family is kind of very loaded, both positively and negatively.
So, you're right to say that there are some aspects that are found in family life that
are also found in community life.
And as the, just kind of saying we're just a community of brothers, does that kind of
fall flat, perhaps?
And so, we want to try and find some other words.
I think, yes, I would agree with you.
We don't really have kind of a good, thorough, in-depth way of fully explaining what this
life is like and so many levels of meaning, perhaps.
Because there is that level of commitment at some point, you know, when each of us makes
our vows.
And again, like, the longer I'm here, I realize when somebody new comes into the community,
everybody kind of looks and way in the back of your mind is, do I want to grow old with
this person?
Do I want these people to be around?
Do I want to be around these people for the rest of my life?
And I don't think in a really horrible sense, but it's down there.
This is our home.
And it's a re-choosing, just like in married life.
These, you know, love is in some ways a decision that one makes and has to make daily.
Same thing with marriage.
On the, like, you're saying all this, the problems of personality, why we need other
people to show need in ourselves, or whatever.
Right, that's the downside.
Right, the downside.
Like, Carl Rogers was stressing to be the authentic self, and then once you start finding
this authentic self, then you don't go by your intuitions because this balanced self
when you get angry at somebody, you can express this anger.
And it will be like an almost just, not excessive, but you can almost tend to trust your actions
when you find them.
So, I'm not getting anything to say about that.
Yeah, right.
That reflects a solid understanding of oneself and the capacity to be in relationships with
others and to fight.
That's a sign of a healthy relationship, is when you can fight with someone in a way that
has to deal with kind of an issue or a problem and doesn't get down to the level of kind
of self-annihilation, which often happens to some people.
That's why they're so afraid to get into arguments, because their self is on the line.
But if you have a fairly well-established sense of self, you know, you can get into
honest, real, charitable disagreements, if that's not a contradiction in terms, and work
those things out.
That's part of the healthy respect for oneself and the relationship with the other.
You spoke about the importance of remembering that we are embodied, and any sense of...
Can you say anything about embodiment and celibacy, and that one doesn't negate the
other, or protect the other, and how to keep that balance?
Right, that's the self-knowledge, I think, that is so important.
People who throw themselves into too much of any one thing in an effort to run away
from something else, whatever that happens to be, whether to throw oneself into one's
work, or perhaps solitary prayer to avoid relationship, that's different than being
called to that.
I want to stress that.
We have to be aware, have a respectful, balanced awareness of our own genital sexuality.
And I guess my point here is that keeping that in mind, along with other aspects of
ourselves, helps it from becoming neglected, where it may kind of then try and jump out
at us, and also helps prevent that, having too high a list on our list of priorities
Does that address what you were talking about?
You have a hand up?
If I understood you, a proper sense of embodiment helps in a healthy celibacy.
I'm trying to pretend I'm in a pure spirit, even though sooner or later that famous lawyer
is going to do an encopsulation, if I can accept the full embodiment of the sufferings
of the choice and the whole range.
Then the whole sexual thing has its context.
It's not just a dramatic figure of order.
You know, the choice for celibate living means kind of the structuring of one's life in
certain ways.
It means taking care of the body, which is, I mean, these are things everyone should be
doing anyway.
We all don't do it as well as we should.
It means structuring our life so that we can, if we really want that to be a goal for ourselves,
then we work towards making that a goal for ourselves.
We start organizing and structuring our life that allows us to be more celibate.
You can use Sipes or other definitions you want.
You'll get from the definition, I think, some ideas about how you need to be living
your life.
Are there any differences?
Or have there been any studies looking at celibates and sexually active people as far
as psychological or biological differences?
There was a study done comparing persisters and non-persisters in celibate life.
So those who chose to stay and those who left.
Let me think for a second if I can recall some of the major findings of that.
Not surprisingly, those who stayed had more positive experiences with celibacy and those
who left had more negative ones.
Interestingly enough, the level of satisfaction with their sexual lives, genital sexual lives,
after they left was not particularly high with the people that left.
I'm not sure what that means.
I mean, not enough really to know that.
Other questions between...
Well, I don't know that the issues were so much around celibacy versus not celibate,
but they've done a lot of...
They try to get characteristics to describe religious or priests versus non.
And there have been numerous studies in the past that studies are done less frequently.
Sometimes there's an increase in dependency noted, some measure of immaturity.
And that, I think, for the studies in the past, that would be essentially true that
the people's current reflection on what their training was felt that it had not helped them
grow emotionally and socially.
It helped them grow intellectually, perhaps.
So that was a criticism.
And then training has shifted and is still kind of working to get more balanced approaches
in that area.
You're saying that our sexual virtues are sometimes greater at certain times and sometimes
I was wondering what brings on those virtues or what makes them go higher or go lower.
There are some physiological changes that can be going about having to do with sperm
production in the human body that would, at a kind of just a biological level, do that.
From an evolutionary standpoint, it's useful for men to feel sexually aroused every once
in a while, kind of keeps the species going, I mean, just at an evolutionary level.
And at a more psychological level, that's where you start paying attention to what issues
of yours or mine or yours, all of ours, tends to make us kind of more or less aroused.
Are there some psychological issues, some ways in which emotions might get expressed
through sexual feelings?
That's one thing to think about there.
Consistency and mental, consistency with that, like if you go into a routine or, I met one
of your monks in the Holy Cross Abbey once and he said, well, I'm still on the beaten
So I guess those things would tempt you sometimes.
To get out of the routine?
Or to think you don't need it?
Like, this can become a routine, but then you have to consider the degrees and values
of all of these.
I think routine's a good thing.
I think it's a helpful thing.
If you've got a regular routine of kind of life and exercise and prayer, that's one thing
versus kind of just leading a life and then feeling extraordinarily sexual and, well,
I'm going to pray now, and then not being very successful and thinking, well, so much
for prayer.
Whereas God, well, God might be saying, well, but isn't there some kind of a routine you
and I agreed you'd be following, if he were to have that kind of conversation with us?
So there is something to be said for the daily routine, and there's a price to be paid in
following that, the insistent ringing of the bells.
That's true in our place, too.
Time doesn't go by before we have to get up and go somewhere and do something, whether
we want to or not.
And some days we're just so pleased to hear the bells, and other days, if you never heard
them again, it would be too soon.
So those kind of struggles.
There's a certain cross, I think, in following a routine.
But a good, healthy routine is important to one's life.
And that commitment, it seemed like, in my experience, you have to have a good, clear
commitment, otherwise grace can't come through you.
It gets cloudy sometimes.
I've got my little tornado on the bottom there.
You know, we're revisiting all of these issues time and time again.
Do people need to recommit themselves?
Do we need to kind of re-look at our vows?
I think so.
We do it on an annual basis at our community retreat.
We have an annual kind of renewal, symbolic renewal of our vows.
We do that at the end of our annual retreat every year.
Hopefully that's not the only time we stop and think about that.
And there may be different periods in our life when it becomes more murky and we have
to revisit and find a new way to recommit ourselves and have a greater understanding
of what that commitment means to us now, given the growth in our relationship with
God and others, too.
A lot of people seem to think that there's a crisis for men today, that there's a
kind of crisis of the masculine in our civilization.
They have men's groups and stars to deal with.
Would you like to say anything about that in connection?
Historically, there was history, which some people said was the history of man, specifically.
And women in particular said, you know, so that was just about men.
It doesn't address our issues.
So women's studies came into being to kind of look at their particular needs.
Then there came a movement towards men's studies.
And some men and a lot of women said, well, what do you need that for anyway?
You already have everything.
Well, I think what some people say, and I would agree with this, is that there was some
kind of perhaps male bias, but some kind of generic history.
And that there are particular issues that men have and that need to be understood more
Men in general were rather opicky about the women's movement, didn't like it, thought
they didn't need to do that.
And some of it they thought was kind of silly and frivolous.
And perhaps some of it was.
Who knows?
I think the same thing can be said about some men's movement issues is in the effort to
understand ourselves as men more consistently, people make a lot of false steps.
So I think that to, so I would counter the criticism that it tends to be frivolous, which
is some criticisms that some people make.
They just say kind of get on with life.
I think you have to give people time.
Is there some sort of a crisis?
I think that there might be.
I don't know that I would, how would I put it?
What do I see as the major issue?
I think the major issue is to try and find a way to come between, to some kind of balance
of the solitary hero archetype that men seem to be born and trained and socialized in versus
a way of owning at an earlier stage in their life than middle to old age, the tender affect
of loving, caring side, and to find a way in which that can be seen as masculine in
the best sense of that word.
So that would be my comment on that.
Let me just have some closing comments, then we can kind of end because it's a little
after 11.
I want to close with a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr.
This was a favorite quote of Dr. Carl Menninger's that I heard for the first time at the
Menninger Clinic, which I like a lot.
It has to do with how we can understand the world in a larger context.
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our own lifetime.
Therefore, we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any context of history
Therefore, we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished by love.
Therefore, we must be can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we must be saved by love.
I want to say thanks for your invitation and your hospitality to me during my week stay
It's been a very positive, a prayerful, and a very enjoyable experience for me.
What I appreciated most in my time here and my chance to visit with people was the sense
of balanced intensity.
There was a sense of important focus that I sense in the people that I've talked with
here, an openness, a questioning towards an end of kind of right-ordering things in your
lives that has had a very good impact on me and has caused me to be more in touch with
those same kind of questions for myself in my own life.
And so from that perspective, that's something that you as a community have given to me during
my stay here as well.
And so I want to thank you for that and for the opportunity to be here with you.