Friday, May 14, 2010

Peace and Clean Floors

Salem at the Carmelite Monestary in Niagara Falls.
People go to stay in the guest houses of monasteries and convents (in surprisingly large numbers) to absorb an atmosphere of 'peace'; it is a break from the conflict and tension, a move into another world from which strain is supposedly absent. The world of the cloister is one in which some new level of awareness has been attained, and its inhabitants breathe a different air. And we less fortunate (or less committed), are briefly admitted into it, for our nourishment and refreshment.
. . .
The popular concept of the peace of the cloister, like the glib misunderstandings of the Buddha's contemplation, is a damaging error - damaging of the people who hold it, damaging to those onto whom it is projected. It encourages most of us to think of peace as something intrinsically separate from the hard and familiar world, something we cannot expect to see realized in most of the reality we know: and it demands the impossible from the cloister, increasing tenfold the real and heavy pressures of that life.
. . .
God's peace has something to do with an acceptance of God's world in its complexity.
This is taken from Rowan Williams' The Truce of God. Whenever I am in one of those 'peaceful places' like the image above I tend to look at the floors and see how clean they are. Floors that clean do not come from a natural spirituality. The peace that comes in being able to perform that duty and create that space is a hard fought peace indeed always on the verge of descent.
I had not read anything by Williams in a while. This little book is a good reminder of his basic premise that heresy is the tendency towards simplification.

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