I suppose that, at least once, it happened to each one of you to be truly scared of the world: of the more and more upsetting and obsessive news, of the ruthlessness of some institutions, of the arrogance of some people, of the changes the environment in which we live suffers. In those moments all our thoughts and heartbeats say: “Enough! I cannot stand it anymore!” Let us close the newspaper or maybe get out of the room. We want to run away. But we do not know where or how.
Bad news around us are suffocating. They paralyze our thoughts and deprive us of hope. We feel bad, threatened and insecure. Our life loses its flavor and its meaning. Important things, that have kept us active and lively so far, seem far away, they disappear from the horizon of our perception. Everything becomes dark. As if the world lost its meaning…
During those moments it is sufficient to reflect on how we arrived at those dramatic conclusions. Before it used to be fine, or even better. Very often the shock comes from a concrete source: we suffer due to the stream of strong, negative news. As a punch, they know us down. And yet we have turned on the TV, radio, or we have decided to read news on the Internet.
Truth to be told, this shock caused by the ” ugly world” we come to know from the news means that we are humanly… healthy! We still have some sensitivity, and desire for peace and harmony. Shall we protect ourselves then? I think we need to.
The ancient monastic tradition knew perfectly well this situation. It was aware of the weakness and fragility of our psyche and of our emotions. The monks had very limited access to information from the outside in order to preserve their peace. The cloister and separation from the world were meant to serve this purpose.
Some will say: “It is not honest! The world is suffering, we cannot be indifferent to it!” The monks have never been indifferent. The world and its problems have always entered monasteries. But this hygiene of external contacts made them prepared to tackle problems. Everything had its time and its coherence. The problem, at present, is that we lack equilibrium. Who offers us an alternative to the noisy and violent world? Who is able to hear the good behind the scream of evil? We must seek this equilibrium on our own – in the space and in the time of silence and personal serenity, or in peace inside our families. It is enough to turn off TV or not watch it too often. Let us change proportions! Let us take some time for prayer, meditation, and reading. By looking at the world from this perspective, we are going to be less frustrated and, perhaps, we will even find a way to improve it…
Fr. Bernard Sawicki osb
Coordinator of the Monastic Institute at the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’ Anselmo