High up on the moors walking with one of the monks on Sunday afternoon we found ourselves pondering language and expression and the way we do that in unique ways. Good writing, he said, is doing what language is supposed to do, which is to get your point across, clearly and unambiguously. Inwardly I noticed a wince of recognition at my imprecise use of language. And then the conversation turned to other things and we walked on down off the moors, through the farm where the second round of foot and mouth disease was discovered in 2001.
I’ll remember next time we walk to take a note pad. As it was I jotted down a few references when we got back. This monk is a walking talking mine of information. The only book reference was John Humphrys of the Today programme who rails against sloppy use of words and back in 2004 wrote Lost for Words:The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language. Sounds promising. Now I see he has produced another book, Beyond Words: How Language Reveals the Way We Live Now. Sounds equally promising.
How glad I am to have a computer back in working order again. Last evening normal service was interrupted and was resumed with some difficulty, and a whole lot of patience.
Yep, it’s addictive. Take a look, but set a timer or you could be glued to the pink screen for hours. I’m glad to see the heart of the blogger is not moved, even when fame and fortune come stampeding from around the corner.
These words ring for me: Ultimately blogging is people willing to commit time, effort and emotion. How cool is that? Commitment to something worth while is a reward in itself.
Charley is one of the dogs here in the monastery. He comes and joins us for breakfast, lunch and the evening meal. For the most part he lays down on his blanket in the corner of the dining room, especially when we are having a formal meal. He knows the score, no snoring or deep sighs while we are silent! However during informal meals he snacks his way along the rows of knees licking up crumbs off our laps. While Charley stays with a particular monk he is a friend for all of us.
There is a monastery, New Skete in New York State, which teaches a particular training method for dogs, Alsatians (German Shepherds) mostly I think. I’ve seen pictures of all of the animals rowed up in the refectory during meals. It’s part of the monks practice and training method to keep their charges with them at all time.
There are many methods of animal training, some more effective than others. Some more apparently kind than others too. The good dog, bad dog system with plentiful treats as reward for obedience is a common one. Then there is the getting and keeping the animals attention, of keeping up constant contact. The animal and person work together, and it works because that way is rewarding in itself. I have a feeling this is the method practiced in the monastery already mentioned.
Sometimes, just to highlight how conditioned we humans are and how conditionable (if that is even a word!) I talk about the reward method of training, in connection with religious practice. That’s practicing with a goal in mind. And, in contrast, I talk about the getting and keeping attention method. That’s paying attention to what you’re doing, being aware of what’s going on around you and remaining in contact with your surroundings.
Not sure where I am going with this however, while I enjoy a treat from time to time, the second method can be constantly rewarding, if it is kept up. So I’d go for that way every time personally.
Community life involves shared responsibilities and shared work. We have rotas drawn up each week and today was my turn to attend afternoon tea with the resident lay guests. I have often thought this blog reminiscent of the kinds of conversation that develop during one of these informal ‘lay teas’. And, sure enough, a number of familiar themes arose during this afternoons tea.
Let’s see, there was a question about some obscure lines in one of our scriptures about six sticks of ree, and the diamond sceptre branches five which I struggled through while drinking my mug of tea and eating chocolate biscuits. No, that wasn’t reminiscent of a posting that I can remember. There was discussion about feeling at home here and feeling home sick here and about feelings generally and how to deal with them. This is more like it I think.
As a conversational gambit when things slowed down I mentioned February and how I’d written about it on my web log. Then I went on about how February is a hard month, how when living in the country the changing seasons have a greater impact. And here I strayed off the path. So, since plants are influenced by the seasons it makes sense that we would be too… and that’s why Sally might have been feeling sad yesterday! Not very edifying though, likening a guest to a plant! Although I do think we are influenced by the changing of the seasons.
February! When will it end? February, so hard to live through. Another day with much not done. My thoughts as I dash for evening meditation through the gloom, overtaking a Reverend in her hooded cape in the lane. This evening we hardly need coats, capes and hats yet we continue to wear them. The bell is already ringing. Meditation. Returning, there are no stars out tonight. But what’s that on the horizon? Still light fading from the day, at 9.00 p.m.? Surely not.
Amazing how, in just an hour, ones point of view can turn and change. From rush and bustle and too much still to do, to a leisurely stroll back up the lane admiring the absence of stars with a happy anticipation of writing a blog entry.
Just sitting is worth while, worth while not because of getting anything or having a better attitude or slowing down a notch or three, or whatever. No, just that there is a space. Just space.
Tomorrow I’d probably say something different.