Before we begin today, I have two apologies. First, there will be no significant talk about sex today. By which I mean that while it is impossible for me to write more than two paragraphs without sex coming into play, I will not be reporting on any actual sexual acts of my own, mostly because there haven't been any.
Busy season, for the most part, ground to a halt late Friday afternoon. There are still bits of work that will arise at the last moment, and there are still returns and payments to be shepherded about, but the returns that were to have been completed have been completed, and the others have been extended. Because the official deadline is Tuesday, I'll be at work Monday and Tuesday, but then on Wednesday the office is closed, and I am taking Thursday and Friday off. B&c and I are traveling to an undisclosed location for a few days of something or other.
I had not expected to be free Friday evening. I had one or two opportunities for a little slap and tickle, but I was not feeling it, so I called b&c and said we needed to catch a movie. You might think that after the crushing tedium of busy season, I would be in the mood for something rousing like 300 or something fun like Boy Culture, which happened to be opening in DC. I don't want to offend anyone who liked 300, but everything I've seen and read about it lead me to believe that I'd rather spend two hours on line at the MVA (that would be the DMV in most states, I reckon) than go see it. And while I will probably catch Boy Culture at some point, it will not be on its opening weekend. (Indeed, it is hard to imagine that I will miss much if I wait for the DVD.)
Anyway. I looked at the listings for the local art cinema, and I squealed with delight (you will understand, of course, that my version of a squeal of delight is a raised eyebrow and a quiet "ooh" in the bass register: on the portion of my most recent evaluation regarding professional demeanor -- or whatever they call it -- my boss had actually criticized me for being "too composed," and it was hard, hard work to stifle a smile when I read that comment) when I saw Into Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille) listed for 6:00 and 9:30. I immediately called b&c and asked him whether he could make a 6:00 show, and I gave him a brief summary of what I knew about the movie. I told him that it was a documentary about a group of largely silent Trappist monks and their daily life in a monastery in the French Alps. I also told him that I had heard a very good review of it on NPR. I may not have mentioned that it was two hours and forty-four minutes long, but then I can't be expected to remember everything, can I?
Anyway. I have always had something of a romantic fascination with the monastic life. I was raised Southern Baptist, so my actual experience with real monks or a real monastery is, shall we say, limited, but the excess of contemporary life often leaves me with a hunger for a quiet place. Also: I love plainsong.
In my notional monastery, life is ruled by the cycles of nature. We rise with the sun and we chant, making beautiful music for forty-five minutes. Then, after our morning lattes and croissants, we have a period for quiet reading and meditation. After the pre-lunch chanting and lunch is a period for working in the monastery's gardens and taking care of such other chores as must necessarily impinge upon our life of contemplation. There follows another period for study and contemplation, followed by the sunset chant, and dinner. Then more quiet time and a final chant before bed. There will be special ceremonies and/or feasts at each full moon and, of course, for the solstices and equinoxes.
Before you deride my notional monastery as, well, boring, I ask you to remember a few things. First, the food would be really good. Second, the periods of study and contemplation are largely self-directed, and you'd have high speed Internet. Third, you'd be surrounded by men with a common set of values and worldview. Fourth, the common set of values and worldview would mean that much of the period of study and contemplation would be spent fucking like rabbits.
As far as I can tell, the Trappist monks, though they chant very nicely, spend no time at all fucking like rabbits. And, trust me, they should: they don't have that much else to do, and a number of them are kind of hot (I'd do about half of them: thirty- or forty-something year old Frenchmen with really short hair and in very good shape: yummy). And you know they have to be even hotter in the context of all that nothing to do.
Anyway. All of my romantic notions of monastic life have been thoroughly shattered. Broken up with a wrecking ball, then pulverized with a ball pean hammer. To be honest, the sense I got from the monks was not so much that of men in communion with God as it was of men with nothing better to do. To be fair, perhaps a sense of communion with God doesn't come across so well in a documentary that is almost entirely silent. But there was nothing in the film that would make any sensible person desire the monastic life. (My parents will be so pleased.) The monks themselves seemed tranquil and content (and a little bit dull), but they all had thin lips. Thin lips are a sure sign of a life without sufficient pleasure. More to the point, it means that they give lousy head.
None of which is to say that I didn't like the movie, because I did like it, very much. I just can't recommend it to anyone else because I can't imagine that three viewers in a hundred would enjoy watching two hours and forty-four minutes of nothing happening. (Think of a greatly slowed down Koyaanisqatsi, but without the soundtrack.) B&c hated it. First he started looking at his watch every ten minutes, then every five minutes, and finally -- two thirds of the way through (which, to be fair, would be about the entire length of most movies) he got disgusted and walked out. It made him angry. As it happens, it made him angry because it reminded him of Benedictine retreats that he'd been forced to endure as a child.
Not having that particular Catholic baggage to carry around, I was able to find within the movie a calm and meditative space. There was something very comforting and expansive about the film's rhythms, even while they were convincing me that I would never want to live the monks' rhythms.
Unless, of course, it meant that I never had to do taxes again. And that I could teach the monks how to fuck like rabbits.