Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My Four Day Weekend

My long weekend was mostly perfect. Saturday and Sunday the weather was beautiful. While I was at the monastery, autumn was at its best. I really enjoyed these days and nights. Way back last Thursday night I went to see Leon Russell at a local bar. Leon is now 65 years old. Think Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt and a cowboy hat. He moves a little slow, and needed a cane to walk to the stage, but he still knows how to groove. My friends and I had a very enjoyable time.

Friday was spent at home. Why didn't I go to the monastery on Friday? OK, he's where I need a flow chart to describe my family's current situation with cars. I'll keep this as simple as I can. A few weeks ago my youngest son's car broke down in Indianapolis. I had to go get him so he could have my second car until we got his up and running. My oldest son, and a family friend we call "The Dude" drove to Indianapolis to fix the car and bring it back to Louisville. That mission was accomplished. We decided to keep Nick's car in Louisville as a back up car since my wife and I usually ride to work together. Are you following me so far? Well, about a week ago my oldest son strapped Chloe into her car seat before backing out of his garage. He then proceeded to run into his other car that was parked in the driveway. He forgot that his wife didn't work that day. Both of his cars were damaged. Because of this he needed to borrow his brother's car that was in my driveway which left Mom and Dad with one car....again. All of this is typical of family life. So...I could not go to the monastery until very early on Saturday morning. I got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. It was cold, dark, and occasionally foggy as I drove the winding roads to the monastery. I arrived just in time for the meeting I was helping to host. As I mentioned before, there were folks from all over the USA and Canada attending this meeting. It was a reunion of sorts for me as many of these people were with me in France a couple of years ago. It was good to see them and re-connect. Monastic meetings are much like corporate meetings for me. They are occasionally interesting and always exhausting. I did have one moment where I had a religious experience. During a wine and cheese social gathering I drank a bottle of beer made by Trappist monks in Belgium. In the late afternoon, on an empty stomach, with an elevated alcohol content not found in domestic brews, I got a small buzz. I walked it off outside in the cool afternoon air. I felt like I was back in France where we drank wine at most meals and sampled the local champagne at night before bed. I did have some truly spiritual moments after I rose at 3:00 AM with the monks for night vigils. The predawn hours are truly a holy time and I soaked in the silence and solitude before the busyness of a new day began.

There was also one other event simultaneously happening while I was involved with my meeting. A group of 15 Muslim scholars were visiting the monks and having a dialogue with some of them. One of the questions they discussed was "What is Enlightenment"? One of the Muslim's responses was that a barometer of your enlightenment was the extent to which you have incorporated attributes of God into your being. The Muslims also expressed an affinity with these monks because of the way they pray seven times a day. As you may know all serious Muslims prayer throughout the day, at certain times, bowing towards and facing the east. This habit of prayer was something they felt in common with the monks.

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