File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 123

Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2001 22:33:31 -0500
Subject: Re: Mystify me!


thank you, I think, for calling me a pagan monk. It seems you meant it
in a positive way and this is definitely something that I can identify
with, but I still need to live with it a while longer to see if the
sandals fit. (I do think there is definitely something monklike about
Epicurus who was the last great philosophical pagan. His garden was a
kind of senuous monastery avant le lettre. It is important to recognize
that the monk is something of a hedonist in the sense that he pursued
something like the Epicurean ideal of atarxia. Ending the social program
to uncover the ecstasy underneath requires a kind of discipline.)

I remember long ago, reading a piece by Thomas Merton, the famous
Trappist monk who wrote "The Seven Story Mountain." He was talking to
some Marxists and he made the connection between being a revolutionary
and being a monk because, as he put it, the goal of both is to overthrow
the world.

There is a sense too in which monks are the original slackers, true
cynics in the classical sense.  They made a complete refusal of the
world, resisting working in the conventional occupations, not merely
intellectually, but in the body. They made their refusal in the flesh.

They were also nomads in the sense that they left the city for the
desert, the wilderness to find a place outside where civilization no
longer regulated. Revolution as exodus. This was a time when such
boundaries applied. Today, the monk must find the desert in the midst of
the global city, her dark silence amid the white noise.

Here is the story of St. Simeon Stylites ( from the E.B.) who lived
between 390 and 459 C.E.  His story sounds to modern ears something that
simultaneously resembles a hacker, Beckett's siege within a room, a
radical ecologist taking refuge in a redwood and maybe even the hero of
Huysman's novel "Au Rebours." 

There is something of a masochist about the monk with his polymorphous
sexual tendencies turned inward towards a at-times violent sublimation.
Perhaps the ultimate lust is the lust for God.  A pagan monk is a
sublime desiring machine.

"Saint Simon Stylites - The first of most famous of the Pillar-hermits. 
After being expelled for his excessive austerities, at thirty years of
age he built a pillar six feet high on which he took up his abode.  He
made new pillars higher and higher, till after ten years he reached the
height of sixty feet. On this pillar he lived for thirty years without
ever descending.  A railing ran around the capital of the pillar, and a
ladder enabled his disciples to take him the necessaries of life.  From
his pillar he preached and exercised a great influence, converting
numbers of heathen and taking part in ecclesiastical politics."

It is the last part that amazes me.  He lives on this sixty foot high
pillar in the desert and still wants to change the politics of the
church!  Here is the true Kantian enthusiasm!



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