The Storming Bohemian will not be writing a column next week. Why? I am going on retreat at a Trappist monastery in the countryside outside Chico. For five days. The rules: no cellphone, no computer, no internet, no music but the monks’ traditional prayer service. Books, notebook, a medieval schedule of chapel prayer in Gregorian Chant, silence. I may bring my bicycle. I may, perhaps, shop a bit for food or visit the gym in Chico. Otherwise, its going to be a time machine back to the Middle Ages.
How do I feel about this? Scared. Afraid of what I might discover, and even more afraid of discovering nothing. Just wasting nearly an entire week of my life on… nothing. Superstition. For days now, a part of me has tried to talk myself out of this: you don’t need to go away, it’s too expensive (though the monks would accept whatever I have to offer), you’ll be bored and just sleep and masturbate an entire week away (as though I’ve never done that before — it needs no monk from the middle ages to tell us that, m’lord), you’ll mess up your diet, what about your exercise program, you’ll miss your friends, your friends won’t miss you, you’ll find out you can’t write worth a damn, you’ll get depressed. It doesn’t stop.
And there is that other voice that says: “Come.” That’s all. “Come.” (Yes, it has something to do with orgasm and ecstasy and love and going home.)
Will I listen? Traditionally, the monks open prayer with this phrase: “Oh Lord, come to my assistance. Oh Lord, make haste to help me.” Make haste. In the midst of the world, the call of the spirit (the muse?) is urgent. The danger is great.
And then, the next prayer begins: “Today, listen to the voice of the Lord.” The muse? My own true voice? The Universe? Dare I say “God”?
Sometimes, I think, you have to allow room for the ridiculous. You have to make absurd experiments in order to move forward. You have to put aside what you think makes sense and do what is contraindicated. You have to come.
I have been unemployed for 10 months. By society’s standards, I’m a slacker. What have I done with the time? Gone to plays. Written this column. Helped to put on a reading series. Improved my health by dieting and exercising. Reflected upon the results of completing seven years of psychotherapy and agreeing with my therapist that our work was done and I could fly solo. Thought about all the jobs I don’t want to take. Tried to dream my way into alternatives. Watched time pass.
There are people in my life that would call this “laziness” and “irresponsibility”. Fortunately, they live in other states.
It’s important, I think, to listen. And to make haste about it. Okay, I’ll lend my ear. I’m gonna toss myself into the time machine of a Trappist monastery and learn what the calling voice has to say to me.
How are you going to listen this week, my friends?
I’ll be back in two weeks. Remember, I love you folks.
– Charles Kruger
The Storming Bohemian