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July 24, 2009 / Hannah

the Benedictines

The problem is always how to begin. It’s easy to drift into it, like drifting into sleep while sitting outdoors–thoughts then returning to the surface in sharp jolts when a mosquito zooms in a little too near to an ear, sounds of a 3 year old laugh getting closer. Then drift back down to dreamy, subconscious world, drowsiness rolling me back like waves, calm and steady. 

It’s in between those two states, almost awake and almost asleep, that the world of sounds and every playing bit of breeze are all I know. Then the words begin to float around, stringing along and forming phrases that I wrack my brain trying to remember later. 

Kathleen Norris, in her book The Cloister Walk, describes that moment when the poet has to relent to the world of senses and the soul because words don’t go far enough. They can only do so much. They’re aids, pushing the buttons that lead the mind to experience. experience… and in that way they have power. Place two words together, more, create different combinations, and lead the mind to new experiences or old. 

I have always loved Dickens. David Copperfield is my favorite book. Dickens was the satirist of his day, he used the art of words to bring the experience of the ill treated poor to the surface of society. The phrases he used then spoke of brutality, the ugliness of humanity when it denies its own. Now, his books are almost light-hearted compared to what is written in the works of his modern day contemporaries–how far authors must go to cause a reaction. Often too far. How much is too much to experience in your mind? Brutality on page after page.. 

That was a tangent, we can all answer that question on our own. 

The Benedictine monasteries live on to experience God, through the word and through living in koinonia community. This experience that springs up and out from spoken, written words becoming an experience in the soul, as close to you as you can get. Experience springing forth then from within and into living with others. The poetry of the soul gains permanence when it is acted out.


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