May 12, 2007

One of the final entries in "What Is Your Dangerous Idea" is Leo Chalupa's A 24-hour period of absolute solitude, that that period of "no verbal interactions of any kind (written or spoken, live or recorded) with another human being" might be of benefit, and that only people in monasteries or solitary confinement are likely to have experienced it.

An intriguing thought. I know I've kind of come to embrace my novelty-seeking behavior, in fact, built an ad-hoc personal morality justification for it. But I can see the appeal of being otherwise, at least for a while. (I get a measure of solitude walking to work, though the path is rarely empty... and sometimes I elect to just have it be me and my thoughts, and not me and a book, or me and an ipod.)

It makes me wonder about the monks. "The Sixteen Pleasures" talks about an outsider who gets some refuge in a nunnery (she's helping them preserve flood-damaged books,) though that was only silence for certain parts of the day. But the idea of being among people, probably interacting to some degree, but never talking... beyond the spiritual goals you're pursuing, what kind of emotional community life develops there? When you go to get served your bowl of monk chow, do you waggle your eyebrows in gratitude? Do you get some form of the usual power plays and social dynamics, specific friendships and bitter rivalries, but all in silence? Or is it qualitatively different, and is the outer silence just a manifestation of a tranquil inner life? Do you keep up an inner-monologue, or does that too start to fade, until your mental landscape is made of purer, more obtuse structures than words or sentences?

(Of course, I'm lapsing back into my old way of assuming my "inner monologue" is more or less "me", and more or less there all the time, when in reality I know it's often little more than the post-facto rationalization that I come up with every once in a while.)

Photo of the Moment
--UT cheerleader via CHFF's cheerleader thread. Obviously there are different aspects to appreciate in this photo, but mostly I like the sense of flying.