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 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?
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.