Thursday, January 24, 2008

12 and a half steps and monasticism and stuff...

for a while now a group of folks from revive have been working their way through this 12-and-a-half step programme which is a sort of materialism/consumerism detox based on the AA model of the 12 steps. it's about trying to cure your addictions to - for want of a better word - sin.
so earlier in the week sue and i went to an informal meeting for folk who might be interested in doing the course.

we haven't comitted ourselves to doing it yet, but i think that it's a fantastic thing to do.
and yet i have some misgivings. some of that is a rich young ruler-type response. i'm holding on to a lot of stuff and i don't want to let it go. [and of course that's exactly the attitude that the steps are designed to help you out of...]

also, these days i just i have an instinctive aversion to any sort of set course or programme...

but then there's the theology. at the meeting howard, who wrote the book, talked at one point about casting out demons - i'm not sure that i buy all that spiritual warfare stuff . plus i was left wondering about the model of prayer that you'd be expected to adopt - wondering if it'd fit the sort of silent meditative listening prayer that i'm ambling towards... i need to find out if these are genuine issues or not.

and there's also this monastic thing that we've been doing - i love it, or at least the idea of it, but it's hard; hard to make the time on a regular basis to learn to be silent, to be obedient, to have right priorities, to be humble, to pray, to do the lectio divina... i've been a bit crap at it and not made much headway with it to be honest.

then on the bbci player i watched the final episode of the 'extreme pilgrim' series. peter owen jones, an anglican priest, went off into the egyptian desert and lived alone in a cave for three weeks, following in the footsteps of st anthony and a modern day ascetic called father lazarus. it was brilliant and scary - he suffered, failed to cope with the alone-ness, the hell of his own introspection; but then came to love the experience. at one point he talked about the noise in his head subsiding, and then about how the desert pares down your choices and your distractions... i love that idea, and i kind of long for that, but not the pain that goes hand-in-hand with it.

[at other points he and fr lazarus talked about the nature of the spiritual battle - it's an internal dialogue. i was very much more comfortable with owen jones' understanding of the demons within, of his own dark side, of his small habitual sins than with the more literal idea of satanic attack...]

so here's the thing. i have to do something. owen-jones talks about being numb before his experience in the desert and i know what he means. i have a faith, but in practical terms, it impacts very little on my life and in my community. that's not good enough any more.
i could go for the steps thing. or maybe i should concentrate on making a go of the monastic thing [minus the going off to live in a cave bit - i'm thinking more of trying again to adopt the principles and establish some sort of rhythm and balance]...


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