Yes, I did cheat on the name. Why do you ask?
One thing I discovered last week while questioning the lack of peace in the community is that suddenly I had a lot less of it myself. I wanted to run right out and rescue everyone from themselves. The problem is, that I would have a hard time giving others something that I don’t possess myself. I could run right out, enter the lion’s den and…then what? Roar just as loudly as they do? Been there, done that. It wasn’t very pretty. More importantly, it wasn’t effective.
I feel like I have a responsibility to my two kingly fathers to guide the community in a positive direction. I just have a hard time figuring out how to do that. If I try to turn myself into some kind of leader, then I run the risk of falling into the ego trap myself. And, honestly, I’m an introvert. Jumping into the middle of social activities stresses me out. I’m not pretty when I’m stressed. So, what else is there?
I’ve always kind of liked the idea of being a monk. How can you contribute to a community while at the same time withdrawing from it? What do monks contribute? Everyone knows about Gregor Mendel and his peas. There are beautiful illuminated texts. There are chi gung breathing exercises that improve health. There’s kung fu! Monks are like a spiritual R&D department.
The word “monk” is actually pretty general. The rules are not always the same from one group to the next, but there are always rules of one sort or another. I would have to do a middle way kind of arrangement by default. I’m already married with child, but as a homeschool parent, I’m not required to hold down a full time job outside of the home. I don’t have much of a social life outside the internet. I’m practically halfway there already.
There are rules, and those rules seem intended to drive home some kind of spiritual point. A vow of poverty restricts the person from being ruled by money, and can emphasize the power of generosity. A vow of chastity can free a person who is ruled by sexual impulses, and in the case of tightly packing together a large number of healthy males in their prime, it can have a practical reason too! (Imagining a woman to be full of rot and disease was not meant to be a insult to women, rather a way to get young virile monks to stop thinking about them!) There’s also the vow of obedience, the rule that says that you will follow the rules. There are vows of nonviolence and vegetarianism which emphasize the value of life.
I see these vows as being a very precise prescription for initiating change in a person’s life in a specific way. Different orders take different vows, for different reasons. Before taking any such vows I need to think carefully about what the long term effects may be. I can’t just go down a list of commonly used vows and pick a few of them at random. One person’s medicine is another person’s poison.
I’ve been experimenting with rules on my own while playing video games. In one game, I made a rule that the character could not kill. That meant I could not do most of the quests I was given. (I made an exception for gateway quests.) I got my experience from crafting and gathering. Luckily that game, Aion, allowed me to do that. I got that character up to level 40. In SWTOR, I’m now playing by permadeath rules. No-kill made me value life around me. Permadeath, makes me value my own life. Once the character dies, I have to start over. It teaches me to be cautious and think before I start a fight. The previous character died at 7. The one I have now is 19.
So, what kind of monastic rules would be appropriate for the life I’m living now? Heru has already put in a vote for “no self harm.” No hair shirts here! That also knocks out extended fasting or flagellation. It does include being careful of my internal thoughts and how I speak to myself. He pointed out that if I’m not nice to myself, then how can I be nice to anyone else?
It’s a start, but I feel I need more than that before I can think of myself as a monk. I need to continue with the research. What kind of practices will raise my spiritual awareness and benefit my ka?
A vow of purity might be well suited to a Kemetic. I should not beat myself up, or anyone else, if a decent shower isn’t available. Some things are unavoidable and should be taken with good grace. It is simply a means of showing respect for the body I’m in and for those around me. It’s easy to slack off on my appearance if I don’t have any plans to go anywhere. It’s not about vanity, just a basic level of respect and preparedness. I will have to spend some time exploring what “purity” means to me before beginning that one.
A vow of good speech would also be very appropriate for a Kemetic. I could use (Saint) Fred Rogers as inspiration here. He talked the talk and he walked the walk. That would be a hard vow to keep. I’m extremely good at snarking once I get started, and my language while driving is not fit for polite company at all. If we cut out those negatives, then what? We have to get creative with our positives. Mr. Rogers was able to stare down congress with his good words. He had some powerful heka!
The next pitfall lies in making it too complicated. It’s supposed to simplify life. It’s not meant to set me up for failure. It’s not meant to be so large that it crowds out the important things. Keep it simple, but make it strong.
What is my goal exactly? What is the root of the problem that I am seeking? If I don’t know that, then how can I choose? “Heart of peace” they told me many years ago. I thought they surely must have had me confused with someone else.