Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Firstly...

We watched The Monastery on BBC2 last night. I don't watch very much TV - partly because evenings are generally work time for me, and partly because there seems to be little worth watching. This one was an exception. Jonny has already blogged the background to the series (sadly just three shows). Two things stood out for me: the first was the variation between the outlook of the younger volunteers and the older ones. Two of the younger ones were from very secular backgrounds and both were high-earning and quite hedonistic. Initially, they seemed the most bemused by the benedictine environment. The challenge for them seemed to be to move from the almost deliberately-chosen superficiality of their lives to take themselves more seriously. The third younger volunteer came over as an obvious monk-in-waiting (former buddhist, now anglican returnee). However, as the programme continued, it seemed to me as though his challenge was to rediscover a commitment to community, not just the personal focus on God in separation. The other thing which stood out came towards the end of the programme, when a conflict broke out between two of the younger volunteers. It took place within a group meeting, in the presence of the abbot. Some direct speaking took place, and neither of them found it easy. The others, together with the abbot, stayed silent while the interaction took place. Afterwards, we saw the abbot listening to both of them individually. He carefully helped them discover more about themselves through the conflict situation, pointing out that it is through rubbing up against others in community that they can give us the gift of knowing ourselves. I found this very challenging. It was this conflict, and the way it was handled, that created a huge contrast between this programme and Big Brother. In BB, conflict is encouraged and stimulated between the 'contestants'. However, it is exploited for cheap entertainment purposes, with others in the house encouraged to 'take sides'. The benedictine community used conflict as an opportunity for deeper healing and greater self-knowledge. BB uses conflict to entertain the onlooker, so that the whole programme becomes a kind of amphitheatre of human misery, incomprehension and brokenness. It is rare to see one television programme act as an unintentional judgment upon another.

I'm also left wondering whether the benedictine and other religious communities realize what is likely to be unleashed by the programme: I'm sure there'll be many people wanting to try out the novitiate, or at least stay on retreat at monastic foundations, as a result of the impact of the programme. Perhaps copies of The Rule of St Benedict will run out in the bookshops - quotes from it appear throughout the programme. For what it's worth, there's an online copy at: http://www.kansasmonks.org/RuleOfStBenedict.html.

4 Comments:

At 5/18/2005 11:01 PM, Anonymous Simon Sarmiento said...

Maggi drew my attention to your arrival.
Welcome to blogland, Paul

 
At 5/19/2005 12:27 PM, Blogger Paul Roberts said...

Thanks Simon. I've decided to live and move and have my bloggish being here until I upgrade my server's hardware.

 
At 5/24/2005 5:26 PM, Blogger Jenstall said...

I've only managed to see the first episode of this series, but I was deeply impressed with it and I hope they release it on DVD soon so I can order it in the States.

 
At 5/24/2005 11:59 PM, Anonymous Ryan Bolger said...

Paul -- so cool you have a blog -- I'll start reading and following your posts...
Cheers,
Ryan

 

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