Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The monastery is almost the new black.

A favorite reader sent me this link.

Although the emphasis is on the green and self-sustaining aspects of this housing development, the fact that the residents are like-minded and all on a first name basis is significant.

Like monks brewing their own beer and sealing themselves off from the madness of the outside world, these folks are just a few steps away from the medieval model.

If we move in this direction, we would need the federal government for very little. For national security. For interstate transportation. To fight epidemics. To protect the potability of large bodies of water and the quality of the air. To provide free national wifi.

I cannot shake off the thought of starting a gay monastery here in Fort Lauderdale. The fact that real estate is now affordable makes it even more attractive. It would only take a small group of men (and women? Maybe, why not?) to pool resources and begin it. Let it be built around a central private courtyard. Let the monks share the work of producing food, clothing, art and music. Let them work naked f they want. Let them have sex with whomever. Let them believe in God or not, but let them meet frequently to discuss the business of being the best and healthiest human beings possible. Let them learn to think with discipline and to relax and to find peace. Let their celebrations be magnificent. Let them leave the monastery, if and when they feel that need, with no recrimination and with the good wishes of those they leave behind. Let the monastery be bound to some level of broader social service to the larger community in which it is located.

Meanwhile, back to the real world.


TED said...

I have long harbored a desire to found the Brothers of Perpetual Extasis, but more likely in a rural setting. Fort Lauderdale seems to me not the most conducive setting for any brand of monasticism. On the other hand, a high visibility monastery is in a better position to offer a beacon of hope and guidance to others. Also, franchise opportunities.

The Milkman said...

Heavenly. Where do I sign?

kitchenbeard said...

A gay monastic retreat? How would that be different that lesbain communtes like Camp Sister Spirit?

ewe said...

You are one of those "commie sons of guns" that Sean Penn spoke of aren't you? Me too. Sign me up.

Bear Me Out said...

Take me. Now.

Anonymous said...

is it going to be like the dike farm in alabama or mississippi? i fergit where it is.

hugs not drugs,
chubby hubby

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

No, Chu Hu, it is not going to be like a "dike farm".

and no, Kitchenb, not like Camp Sister Spirit.

I doubt I would have had any sense of the possible in this regard if I had not visited some monastic communities and observed the lives of the monks and their daily routines. It is hard to explain. In my model, all the restrictive anguish-causing nonsense is stripped out. The higher disciplines remain and are attainable and valuable.

Anonymous said...

My circle of friends includes a large number of gay Anglicans, lay and ordained, of the bear/cub variety. We have joked about the idea of starting a monastery for years. And then, the joking became half-serious. Part of it really does make sense.

We could pool our finances, observe the daily round of Mass and offices, embrace our brotherhood with one another and others, and be a model for a new kind of family. It's an immensely appealing idea.

(Besides, I've long thought of the marriage culture war in the context of monasticism. A man or woman joining a religious community really does marry everyone else in the community, in a sense.)

-- Father Tim of Philadelphia

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Father Tim,
You get it.

The difficulties are money (the start-up group would have to also in a sense be the basic investors - unless someone wealthy wanted to bankroll the whole thing.) Next comes the discernment process. Not everyone who wants in should get in.

Anonymous said...

"Not everyone who wants in should get in."

And therein lies the biggest problem, Father. I am on the board of directors for a new religious community for women in the Episcopal Church. (When they get enough nuns for a chapter, they won't need the board.) This has been the most difficult part of the process. One troublemaker can ruin the whole community. The idea of living not only for ourselves, but also to empower a community of others, in a very un-American concept, not easy for many folks to embrace. The celibacy/non-celibacy issue is moot, really... it all boils down to each individual being willing to embrace living for others.

Difficult, yes; but NOT impossible. The idea fills my heart with hope.

-- Father Tim of Philadelphia

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Father Tim,
I think this is where the strength of the leader of the community is key. Does he have the skills, intuitions, insights and charisma for building and nourishing a community? This is why a change in leadership can sometimes bring a community down or enliven a flagging one. Some successful monastic orders were founded by weird men whose successors were much more proficient as leaders. I have an idea where I would fall in the spectrum, but my idea of myself has been only partially tested.

Paris said...

Haven't the Radical Fairies been generating communities of this sort for a while now?

Dunno about the full-on monastic model, but I love queer households that operate beyond the heteronormative duo model.

Mike said...

Ok, I'll admit that I almost joined an order of teaching brothers. I think any community needs leadership, but certainly not a charismatic could start out wanting Francis of Assisi and end up with David Koresh or Jim Jones.

I think extant religious orders would be flourishing if they didn't have the lifetime "final vows" requirement with the subsequent stigmatization of anyone leaving. People should be able to leave when they feel its time to move on.

Anonymous said...

Hi all. Just surfing and found you. I too have been contemplating starting a monastery- so more power to you. I lived as a monastic for 10 yrs at a monastery that actually allowed women to be monastics also. But truth be told, women were still very discriminated against, and most left befor final ordination. I would like to start a monastery where women are empowered to find themselves and pursue their spiritual path with support but without the constraints of an all male institutional rigid rule hierarchy. I agree with Father Tony that a better monastic model is one where the "restrictive anguish-causing nonsense is stripped out but the higher disciplines remain and are attainable and valuable." There really is no monastic or religious support or opportunity for women or gays. I wish you all the best.

American Glass Museum - George's desk said...

SO I am having a discussion with a gay friend about how to step outside the pushed commercial/ object driven world and went seeking a gay monastic order in cyber space and here I am...I am in rural West Virginia where such a dream could be given wings
so why not?
and yes, not everyone who wants in could be accepted- the level of commitment and responsibility to the group would need to be high
... who would decide who gets in and many many such complex questions
as a planner kinda guy this becomes complex - yet engaging
i like the possibility but fear the actualization

Tony Adams said...

I have never lost interest in this project. All we need is a building. There are so many candidates for this community.

Tony Adams said...

And to answer your questions about who gets in and what the rules of the house would be, it's a question of charism and gifts. A community leader with the right charism and gifts can make it work. If you look at the history of communities that thrive and grow, there are always missteps, and the originators are often not the ones to eventually grow it. Inspiration. I think I could start it and then retire to its garden and let others continue it.