I’m enchanted by the aura of a monkish existence. I find the practice of asceticism and self-denial to be spiritually elevating. Perhaps magical even. Maybe it’s due to the fact that much of my life I’ve led an existence marked by crude excesses, and now I’ve reached a point, a summit, in which my life’s mission represents a reaction to the manner I lived it in the past. It makes sense that I focus on the fulfillment of the antithesis to all that the early potion of my adulthood represented. There is a serene spirituality to be gained from denying yourself the obvious fruits of life. By denying your base hungers which easily sate most of mankind. To relinquish the egotistic perversion of desire the modern world has folded us into. The act of turning your back on your most superficial and learned desires is to surmount the rough, common normality of laziness. Overpowering your rote behavioral reactions, you become less than human. Defeating the complacent demon lurking in your soul, you become more than human. As Linkin Park says, I had to fall to lose it all. You need to lay waste your inner forest, a fire needs to raze your psychic terrain in order to begin anew.
Self-denial takes many forms but it is most innervating when it involves the denial of common human hungers. Companionship, food, comfort, leisure, assorted other items. Note that this list is designed with the fatuousness of the 21st Century man in mind. Self-denial, in our modern incarnation, is graced and trivialized by our insane levels of shameless consumption. Self-denial today might have been a normal state of existence to a normal village dweller 500 years ago. The bar of tolerable existence has been raised with each successive generation of consumptive, materialistic triumph. Asceticism is contrary to our present society. Man cannot practice asceticism sanely: such is the state of our world. Personally, I make small, intermittent gestures, which I admit, don’t add up to much. I’m still a lazy, overfed and over-rested modern sloth. I fast once a week, sometimes twice. I do without many luxuries. I renounce many cultural motifs born of modern spoils. I have eschewed social involvement for so long that I have now come to detest it.
Still, in spite of these laughable and symbolic gestures of monkish existence on my part, I am proud that I recognize my cosmetic drive to join the herd while simultaneously battling the urge to feed it. Such a lifestyle is alienating.
Last night as I was dozing off for the evening, I thought of my Sunday and something occurred to me. Throughout the duration of the day, I barely had any human interaction (or non-human). In the morning, I left a voice message for someone which lasted maybe 15 seconds (and they never called back); my neighbor’s daughter asked me a quick question as I walked back to my apartment and my answer took less that 20 curt words. In the evening, I called my son and we had a very brief, 15-30 second conversation. This was all the human interaction for me all Sunday. I hardly used my voice all day. I had no social contact. Unlike Saturday in which I had several rather annnoying and mundane and irritating conversations which depleted me, drained my psyche. People drain my psyche. That’s why I avoid them. Unfortunately my lifestyle prevents me from avoiding people entirely, so pure avoidance is a luxury. Yesterday represented one of those rare periods I am able to strategically avoid dealing with people. By nightfall, I was left with the startling impression of quiet serenity. As the sun set and I sat here in my quiet apartment, I sensed a peaceful and lush emptiness of having spent the entire day within myself. It was beautiful.
I think I will strategically plan for this again in a few weeks but I will keep away from from the phone and avoid the talkative neighbors and their associated blowhard relatives. My goal will be to not utter one word for 24 hours; in fact, to not interact with anybody for that period of time, as well. After fasting for 24 hours, I experience a peculiar loftiness of spirit, and I believe that is what I came close to experiencing last night. In this denial of living, there is bliss.