And we’re baaack!
I’m all moved in to the new place, and I’m liking it. If you’d like to see pictures, go here. (Think they’re all captioned.) DSL got hooked up yesterday, so I’m back on the ‘net.
On the one hand, I can’t really do without internet. Too much of what I do requires email communication–emails are sent to my chair, my work communicates via email, and Steve and I use internet-based methods of communication a lot. (Plus we play games online with each other. I’m now playing a warlock in WoW.)
On the other hand, I think my internet fast was good for me. Now, I’m by no means a Carmelite in terms of asceticism. I’m attracted to the Trappists and Camaldolese, but I also realize that I (as a lay person) have different needs than they do. Knowing that I need certain things isn’t pride. If anything, it can be a discipline in itself to use responsibly the things one has. (I believe this is a point Chittister makes in her commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict, which is still packed up.) For instance, I could’ve done without a good computer desk, but the one I have makes life so much easier, with as much work on the computer as I do. (I could really use a better chair, though. Ergonomics aren’t negotiable.)
But as the week without regular ‘net access went on, it became obvious to me that I was using the internet at home to fill my life with noise. Suddenly I had to be more organized, so I’d have time to head to a coffee house to check email first thing in the morning. I had time for the Divine Office because I didn’t have the ‘net to distract me. And I recovered some of the silence that had been missing from my life over the summer.
But I’m glad I’ve got the ‘net back. It’s cheaper to make coffee in the new kitcheny area and surf, for one. For the other, the Hoopy Frood and I need some sort of online communication, otherwise the phone bills get onerous. (for instance, I had almost 800 minutes on my phone at the start of the Great Internet Fast. At the end of it, I have 200 left.)
I keep thinking, though: Do I really need a nice place to live and DSL that’s at T1 speeds? Sure, I could–and did–make do with a place that wasn’t the greatest and with slower broadband, but after upgrading both places, I wished I’d moved and gotten faster DSL sooner. I mean, now, I can watch a YouTube video without it stuttering or loading all the way. (YouTube videos aren’t necessary for life, but they’re relatively small–it should give you an example of how slow my old DSL was.) New furniture–a bed, a desk, and a chair–wasn’t optional. One good way of bringing bedbugs with you is to move furniture. Plus, the stuff I had was stuff that was hand-me-downs or garbage picked. I’ve since learned that’s a great way to get bedbugs, as well.
As an aside, I so wouldn’t wish bedbugs on anyone. Cockroaches, if you have them and don’t live somewhere tropical, it’s generally something you did or didn’t do. Bedbugs? They’re just an act of God. You get them, it’s nothing you did or didn’t do. they’re pure chaos.
Sure, I could make do with less–we all can–but the things I have are concessions to make life a bit easier. I think what separates Benedictines from other orders is the attention to the ordinary. Caring for the tools you have is as much a sacred thing as caring for things used in the Mass, for instance. Your everyday work is a form of prayer. But what I think differentiates this from other organizations (say Opus Dei) is that it should be “nothing harsh or burdeonsome.” That is, it should be something to give the stronger something to strive for and the weaker nothing to run from. (Paraphrasing a line from the chapter on the qualities of the abbot, since my copy of the Rule of St. Benedict is also packed.)
The Benedictine notion of asceticism isn’t asceticism for the sake of punishing one’s self, but for making it so that a person appreciates the things he/she has. (Merton makes this point in New Seeds of Contemplation. That book is also still packed.) Right now, I could use some coffee.