Friday, October 21, 2011

another view of celtic spirituality: a mist-filled path

i didn't mean to dismiss all of the celtic revival folks with my last post; after all, i am trying to be one of them, only to recognize that what we so easily call 'celtic spirituality' is much more complex and unknown and in some ways probably repulsive to us than we often recognize.

so, to refresh my memory with some of the ideas and imagery that made 'celtic spirituality' so attractive to me many years ago, i am also re-reading frank maceowen's the mist-filled path.  it is probably more useful to me and others who today would seek to recover the sort of connexion to the world(s) that marked what we call 'celtic spirituality' than monastic rules.  like myself, maceowen is a southern boy who grew up in the 'bible belt' but who also had the good fortune to have a father whose  'religion' happened mostly in the woods.  and, of course, here in the northwest, mists are almost unavoidable.

one of the things that separates maceowen's method from that of the monks who, at least according to the rules collected by o maidan, filled their days with constant repetition of psalms, is the quiet.  maceowen reminds us of the importance, in j. philip newell's words, listening for the heartbeat of god. 

the quiet is a gift of the long dark hours of winter, and of the mists.  pray that i will have the grace to listen during these long beautiful hours of samhain.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

back online: celtic monasticism

it's a bit odd, perhaps, after thinking eureka springs would be the place of my resurrection, that i have moved back  to the pacific northwest, to the olympic peninsula.  why should i do such a thing?  partly because i'm a wimp:  the winters have been too cold and the summers too hot the past two years in arkansas for me to wander in the wilds.  partly because i was too comfortable:  my little apartment there was so comfortable, with running hot and cold water, heating and airconditioning, and 3,000 books, that i had little incentive to wander in the wilds.  partly because i missed the ocean:  as beautiful as the ozarks are, there are no waves crashing on the rocks.

and so here i am, in a climate that is wet and cool, but seldom extreme, hauling water, with less than a dozen books--a cheat, because i have the internet--a short walk from the straight of juan de fuca.

i am living, at least for a while, in a camper under a big fir tree.  there are all sorts of fruit trees nearby, and berries.  it is a beautiful walk of about two miles to the nearest source of oats and tea and peanut butter.  it seems a start with possibilities.  but i have been reading uinseann o maidin's the celtic monk, and it makes me wonder whether there's any relationship much between my life and celtic monasticism at all.

in a very basic sense, my maternal grandmother lived a live of celtic monasticism.  she wa humble, hospitable, ate little, prayed many psalms each day, never spoke ill of anyone.   and she did such things with much more stability than i have, never living more than twenty miles from her place of birth.

at the same time, the lives described by the celtic monastic rules is much more harsh than anything i live, and more harsh than that of my grandmother, at least after the depression.  and it is a far cry from the cozy celtic christianity that is so glibly described in a huge popular genre of books and videos.  and, i have no community of support.  i have a community that supports me, but that's just because i'm a quaint old man, a sort of semi-ornamental yard gnome.  but no one participates in any sort of similar practices to mine. 

so, it makes me wonder why i feel the need, why so many of us feel the need, to somehow connect what we're doing with what ss. kevin and aidan and kenny and cuthbert and chad did.  is it because the spirit of the current age is so omnipresent that we need support in opposing it?  do we doubt the feelings within our heart that tell us that real life experiences the beginning of the rain at 3:00 a.m., and the calling of the tits and buntings in the apple tree's by julie's kitchen window? 

so, although i am not at all sure that what i'm doing is related to celtic monasticism at all, i am enjoying it.  the air today is full of the ocean, and it's that wonderful temperature--47 degrees f-- when one can't wear the wrong clothing, unless one is afraid of a bit of dampness.  so i'm going to the beach to pretend at least that i'm a descendent in a way of cuthbert, hoping to see an otter who might be a descendent of one of his friends