Monday, 27 October 2008

Just Murmuring.

For many years now I have been a most inadequate and shame-faced Oblate of 'Stanbrook Abbey'. An Oblate is someone affiliated to a monastery and its community, and who tries to live according to the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict.

I struggle.
I struggle with many things, but I firmly believe that the ancient Rule of Saint Benedict offers wonderful guidance on attempting to keep some sort of balance in life.

Saint Benedict did not like 'murmuring'.
It sounds all right, doesn't it? Quiet and peaceful? Saying things very quietly that you're not really prepared to say out-loud? But the trouble with mumuring is that it, by its very nature, goes on and on. A continuous low-level disturbance to peace.
Murmuring is likely to be otherwise called moaning, grumbling, complaining, worrying, nagging and, as my sons would say, 'banging on and on'.....which is what mothers do, of course.

Saint Benedict liked peace, but he knew it was not easily attained. You have to struggle very hard; you have to work on it, discarding grudges, trying to be positive, trying to be honest and straight-forward and to hang on to some sort of vestige of another ancient concept called 'purity of heart'. You have to be remarkably self-disciplined, and you must have other, positive types of reflection, action and thought to fill the void which will inevitably be left by not murmuring. No one ever said it was easy - especially Saint Benedict- but you at least have to try!

Living alone should be peaceful. For the first time in my life I am free of the demands and restraints of work. The dog and I can do what we like. I can wear my dressing gown in the garden at ten in the morning. I can read all night (if I can stay awake). I can go for a walk, dig out some bind-weed, run up the phone bill with long conversations with my long-suffering friends .... do anything or nothing. But what do I so often do?
I murmur.

Internal, solitary murmuring is just as destructive as vocalised, social murmuring.
'What if the pension fund collapses? What if I fall downstairs in the middle of the night? Have I got mice behind the fridge? What did he mean, when he said that? Should I take cash out of the Bank and hide it under the mattress? Can I pay the next gas bill? Am I becoming introspective? Oh no! Am I?''
Banging on and on - the small, relentless, damaging voice of disquiet.

Saint Benedict said, 'Do not murmur for any reason whatever', and he was right, because people do not change, and it was as completely pointless in the 5th century as it is in the 21st.

11 comments:

mm said...

"But the trouble with mumuring is that it, by its very nature, goes on and on. A continuous low-level disturbance to peace".

Fascinating post and methinks St B is probably right. Your internal dialogue, btw, sounds remarkably similar to mine! There is no doubt that those of us who live alone have to be that much more vigilant to guard against the habitual whisperings of disquiet .....

Relatively Retiring said...

Thank you for your comment, MM.
I'm sure that the whisperings of disquiet are similar for most of us. You can blot them out with other noise and activity, but the real challenge lies in blotting them out with silence. St. B. certainly knew about real life!
P.S. I DO have mice behind the fridge!

pohanginapete said...

"...you must have other, positive types of reflection, action and thought..."

I think this is very true. I think there's a difference between suppressing the murmuring and choosing not to pay it undue attention (and by definition, it's worth little or no attention). I find the other, positive thoughts make it far easier to acknowledge the concerns (the murmuring), then put them in their place. Rather like telling them, "Yes, but big deal. I have more important things to enjoy."

Relatively Retiring said...

It's tough, though, isn't it? The ideal Benediction solution is to put oneself into a state of advanced meditation. The more prosaic solution (often employed by a Benedictine well-known to us) was to nod off!

pohanginapete said...

Ha! Yes, I have a fair idea which Benedictine you mean ;^)

Peregrina said...

I'd already come to the conclusion that the only way I'd be able to silence the murmuring was to fall asleep - provided I didn't then dream, of course!

Hmmm. This post hit home, rather. I've been feeling somewhat grumpy lately and the internal monologue has been getting noisier and more insistent. You're right about the destructiveness of it. The grumpiness feeds on it, then the murmuring increases to match - and on it goes...

Thank you for introducing me to St Benedictine's stricture on murmuring, R.R. I doubt I could blot it out with silence, but I can at least think more positively. ... Well! There's Elgar's Cello Concerto just beginning on the radio. That's something that will quash the murmurs for the next little while, and maybe by the time it's finished I'll have gathered enough strength to sit on them myself. Well, I can try.

Relatively Retiring said...

Thank you Peregrina - good to meet you!
I'm writing to you from the very heart of Elgar country, and I hope he works as well for you as he does for me on many occasions. I'm lucky enough to be able to follow in his footsteps on the hills as well. Breathlessless can also silence mumuring!

cheeseman said...

You're a very clever writer, and I like what you say, but I don't think anyone who doesnt live in a monastery or a convent can have any idea about living under the rule of St. Benedict. There are too many distractions. You have to be in a monastic situation where you are supported in order to do this.

Relatively Retiring said...

Thank you, Cheeseman, for your comments, which I appreciate. You are right. Saint Benedict originally wrote his rules for those living in monastic conditions, but the role of the Benedictine Oblate is also ancient, and is followed by many throughout the world. The sort of balance and sanity that Saint Benedict advocated can be a powerful force in the modern world.

Zhoen said...

Thanks for sending me here. I have a strong tendency to murmur, even though I do know better.

Molly said...

I heard a lot about St. Benedict when I was growing up. This makes me want to find and read more about him and his teaching....