Monday, March 16, 2009

Dead Poet, Dead Monk, Mad Scientists, and Minimites

“No one who simply eats or drinks when he feels like eating or drinking or smokes whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, or gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever they are stimulated, can consider himself a free person. He has renounced his spiritual freedom and become the servant of bodily impulse. Therefore his mind and his will are not fully his own. They are under the power of his appetites, and through the medium of his appetites they are under the control of those who gratify his appetites.” (Thomas Merton)

Thomas Merton is one of those authors I've been intending to read for about 12 years now but have never buckled down and done it. Another on this same list in my life is Henry David Thoreau, and more specifically, Walden. I read an excerpt in 7th-grade Literature in our unit on Trascendentalism (seriously? transcendentalism in 7th grade English?) and I was completely hooked. After years of 'intending', I finally found the whole text last fall and started reading around Christmas.....and am still in the first 30 pages. In excerpt, I was in love. In entirety, I am so incredibly this related to something in our quote-happy, immediate-gratification culture? Or maybe I'm too wimpy for 150-year-old English? In any case, my favorite line continues to be:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not ,and not, when I had come to die, Discover that I had not lived.”

In other news: An interesting blog called Don't Eat the Fruit tells the story of "Better Off", a book describing an experiment where a couple goes to a "Minimite" community, where people live low-tech lives not out of religious conviction, but because they think it leads to happier lives. I am really fascinated with the idea that Radically Simple lives make us happier because they encourage community. Instead of extreme independence where everyone is a stranger, you actually have to interact with other persons to get what you need.

And speaking of experimentation, the latest issue of Geez Magazine explores Gandhi's idea that experimentation is a great way to discover "spiritual depth, and a more compassionate and peaceful world." The issue asks:

"What if we approached our troubled world less like earnest, hand-wringing, stern-talking, manifesto-brandishing world-changers................. and more like mad scientists?"

They feature a bunch of first-person mad scientists describing their experiments, such as a girl who wore only vintage clothes, or a set of roommates who tried eating only non-processed food. The mag makes a great point- that Lent (which is described as a season of "weaning you off") is the perfect time to try an experiment of your own in order to see if certain lifestyle changes will make you more like Christ.

Would your relationships be more loving if you stopped texting? Would you be more of a servant if you stopped watching TV? How would you change-spiritually- if you stopped shopping? Lent goes through the second week of April- it's not too late to add a little mad-scientist to your life.

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