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Monastic Enlightenment

Monastic writing will seem abstract and even weird to secular senses. When you're bringing up children or working for a "slave wage" as people call it, the talk of monks will seem so strange that it seems like it's from an other time - which typically speaking, it is.

When the world gets too wicked and entrenched, however, is when the departure of the recluse really starts to make sense. I went through a horrible bout of drug withdrawal in 2011 and spent the next two years living quietly in an apartment in Seattle. Besides getting food, hanging out with friends and working freelance writing jobs, I didn't really do a whole lot.

There was no drama and I realize how much I perpetuated the drama as much as anyone else. Someone else may have started it but I ran with it and made it my own. The world moved on with all of its excess without me, thinking very little of my departure.

Again, in 2016, I had nowhere close to a drug withdrawal episode but I did attempt something new - living in Portland, Oregon - while the society went through what seems to be one of its roughest years. Former vice president Joe Biden has said that 2016 reached in to "our darkest emotions." One roommate had a nervous breakdown while I was living with him and incessantly talked about killing himself. When I got to California after leaving that situation, another roommate was drinking several six packs each day and then sleeping through most of the next day. When I stayed with him as he checked himself in to rehab, he admitted that despair was driving him.

Between those times, I found peace and did not let myself become impacted by the pain I felt from these roommates by channeling that same mental departure that I took years ago. When you begin to become detached, suddenly Buddhist wisdom about the dangers of attachment becomes clear, as does the reasoning behind Catholic regulations on priests and nuns. You have to let go to move on. Enlightenment doesn't come from being anti-social, far from it, but it also does not come from clinging to others and trying to mold them in to what you want them to be. It comes from helping them along and nudging them in the right direction.

I had another roommate who, while not at all religious, spent a few years of his own as detached from mainstream life as is likely possible in our society. He lived off of the grid, often in the woods. He was fully aware of how this reflected the protagonist of Into the Wild and knew of the book. He wasn't aware of several things that had happened in the greater society, which honestly may have been for the best.

The world's religions often formed in the breath of major world events - the first exodus of the Jews, the decline and fall of Rome or the rise of Arab influence. Times like that can be very overwheleming - perhaps monastic life is a response to that - to try to find the truth when the world is making that supremely difficult to obtain. Perhaps we are in a time like that now.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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