April 28, August 28, December 28
Chapter 70: That No One Venture to Punish at Random
Every occasion of presumption
shall be avoided in the monastery,
and we decree that no one be allowed
to excommunicate or to strike any of her sisters
unless the Abbess has given her the authority.
Those who offend in this matter
shall be rebuked in the presence of all,
that the rest may have fear.
But children up to 15 years of age
shall be carefully controlled and watched by all,
yet this too with all moderation and discretion.
All, therefore, who presume
without the Abbess' instructions
to punish those above that age
or who lose their temper with them,
shall undergo the discipline of the Rule;
for it is written,
"Do not to another what you would not want done to yourself" (Tobias
"Every occasion of presumption should be avoided in the monastery."
This is about a lot more than saying who can punish whom. This is
pointing out that, whenever there are more than one to be considered,
absolute freedom cannot exist. This is about central authority, yes,
but it is also about the total way one conducts oneself in a home or
group that others share.
Ever think about your first home away from your parents house? It was
probably different in a lot of ways, especially if you lived there
alone. Heady freedom that! I recall my own first place very well and
fondly. However, I can assure you, I could not have lived as I did
there had I been in a family, with younger siblings at home. (OK, it
was 1969, so go figure...)
Even alone, however, I was not free to play my stereo at undue
volumes at 3 AM. We live on a common planet, at some point ALL of our
lives touch others. When they do, control of some sort is necessary
if people are to live in peace.
There is a great and treacherous myth of individualism among
Americans and, to a lesser extent, I think, among all Western
European cultures. Non-western cultures often have a much more highly
developed sense of sharing and commonality. The American nonsense
of "God-bless-the-child-that's-got-his-own" does justice to neither
God nor the child!
Schweitzer pointed out that Europeans found the Africans lazy,
because they would not work to a point of exhaustion without need.
They worked all right, but when the work was done, they quit. They
had a casual and natural attitude to work, proper to their own
economic system, that drove the Europeans nuts, because the latter
had more of a 40-hours-a-week-and-then-you-rest notion. Both
Schweitzer and I tend to side with the natives on this one!
That myth of total freedom, of self-sufficiency being able to buy one
the right to any activity is totally wrong. Even at 20, in my richly
bohemian digs that I called "Shackri-la", I was not totally free. I
didn't know it back then, but I wasn't. I had no right to waste water
or leave lights on all night or drive drunk. My fantasy might have
been chronologically appropriate as Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco,
but hey, even there, even then, people were not free in any absolute
sense. None of us are.
Every presumed domain of our control exists on a planet shared by
billions. No one of us is an island. Our complete interdependence is
not only objective fact, it is our only hope. You might never have
read this chapter as an ad for ecological consciousness, but look at
the first line again. We are ALWAYS in this with others and that
always means responsibilities to "...not do to another what one would
not have done to oneself."
Love and prayers,