Blogging Benedict: Sleep with your clothes on

In chapter 22 of the Rule of St Benedict, the monks are commanded to sleep with their clothes on. Why? This way they have no excuse for being late for their middle-of-the-night and early morning prayers. They can jump up from bed and go straight to the oratory. In fact, many Benedictine monasteries have a staircase descending straight down from the dormitory into the chapel.

Benedictines pray a lot. The round of prayers is the focus of many chapters of the Rule, as discussed already, and the adaptation of the office for eleventh-century purposes takes up one half of Lanfranc’s constitutions (my review here). They pray Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline, and Matins/Vigils/Nocturns. Two of these occur immediately upon rising. So they have no time for dilly-dallying in bed.

Off the top of my head, here’s a (post)modern takeaway:

Do we lounge around ‘in bed’, as it were, instead of sinking to our knees in prayer?

By ‘in bed’, besides actually lounging in bed, I mean sitting in front of the TV or computer or whatever other entertainment we have, and dulling our senses to the spiritual realities all around us, realities to which God is calling us, realities accessible to us through prayer?

Maybe we should be quick to pray, always ready at any moment to enter into communion with God.

Let’s sleep with our clothes on.

Technological Humanity (almost done The Benedict Option)

In this final chapter of main content in The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher discusses technology. Technology, he argues, is not neutral. Yet he does little to demonstrate this thesis at large outside of the fact that social media technology and the barrage of information (not really ‘knowledge’) on the Internet are probably bad for our minds and our ability to concentrate and engage in what is called deep reading.

Of course, technology may be bad. Or it may be neutral and used for bad purposes. If you aren’t paranoid about nuclear energy, for example, the same technology is useful for electricity for our homes as well as for blowing stuff up and killing thousands of people. Take your pick.

But the most important takeaway is, of course, our use of information technology.

This distracts our minds and fragments our attention. Fragmented attention makes sustained thought, meditation, contemplation, deep reading, difficult. This is no new discovery — hence my recent post quoting Burchard of Worms, c. 1000. C. S. Lewis complained that the radio — the radio — hampered his ability to do sustained reading and writing.

Our distractions have grown even more invasive and pervasive. We read brief posts and articles online, sometimes even good ones, and follow hyperlinks wherever they lead. We passively allow the Internet to set our agenda, while at the same time carefully crafting echo chambers where conservatives and liberals can avoid each other, except (of course) when they go trolling.

And when we’re done with social media, news outlets, and whatever else the Web has to offer, we can further numb our minds with Netflix.

I’m as guilty as anyone.

But if we want to get into habits of deep reading, deep thinking, rich prayer, silence, quiet, solitude. If we want to be able to stand against a world we perceive as corrupt and corrupting, we need to unplug.

We need the Desert.

This is why, after one final post about this book, I’m going to take a 1-week break from personal blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and then see how I do when I resurface. I may return to this blog but not Facebook for a while after that… Technofast, here we come!