not a rhetorical question.

So when was the last time in human history anyone said, "You know, I really feel the world is a more compassionate, nicer place to be than it was ten or twenty years ago"?

Phew. I finally finished The Waters of Siloe tonight, which means I can move on to You Have To Say Something for the trip home tomorrow. Last year on this trip my brain did a phase-shift; this year I don't dare hope for anything so dramatic, but visiting Massachusetts is part of a process, a distancing from the work and practice of my everyday life, a chance to reflect and let everything coalesce into a new understanding. I'll forget the new understanding soon thereafter, but it will be in the mental mix, so to speak, and the next time it's applicable, if I do something like speak unmindfully or otherwise act from ego or whatever, the new understanding will pop up. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The Waters of Siloe has taught me much, much more about Catholic monastic orders than I really expected I'd ever want or need to know. But it's interesting, partly because I'm fascinated by Christian (and particularly Catholic) esoterica, but mainly because monasticism rings a chord in me, and also the Zen order I find most appealing, the Mountains and Rivers Order, has had a fair amount of dialogue with Christian monastics in its development, in trying to design a monasticism that works in America, making it a feasible thing for Americans to do, while maintaining the rigor and intensity that make monastic life useful to inner discovery. Merton's language about the changes worked in a Trappist monk remind me a lot of aikido--the idea that the monk does not do anything to enact the transformation, he simply lays aside his ego and commits himself to the daily practice of the Benedictine Rule, and, as Merton puts it, the Spirit of God enters and does its work to connect the monk to the pure love of God. Good stuff, neh? If you have some sense of how monachism works for people, I highly recommend reading the Rule: it is elegant and wise.

(As I read more into the details I find I may be too much of a wuss for monastic life; at any rate, it's not where I'm supposed to be right now.)