We may find some ways of life enough to cause us to analyze our own style enough to make changes. One of the many forefathers that has always inspired me is Abba Anthony Greek: Ἀντώνιος Antṓnios; Arabic: القديس انطونيوس بادية مصر; Latin: Antonius; Coptic: Ⲁⲃⲃⲁ Ⲁⲛⲧⲱⲛⲓ; c. 12 January 251 – 17 January 356).
While he is technically not the first hermit or ascetic, he is certainly someone to give credit for regarding the directions that Christian Monasticism would eventually take. I happened across “The Writings of the Desert Fathers” a few years back, at a time where I was looking for a change. In this supposedly illiterate monk, I found something that had a profound impact.
What stuck with me was not a particular bit of speech or some great story of a miracle, but the rather simple observation that maybe I had too many things. I was at the time a Vision Engineer and Data Scientist, had a rather large home, and could have been considered reasonably successful by most outside observation. On the other hand, I was devoid of anything that caused me joy. Reading about how this man gave away all he had to move to the middle of the desert and work on his spiritual journey hit me hard.
So, I did as closely to that as I felt was still being responsible for my family. I left my job, moved to an unfinished cabin, gave away my old house…and began again. There is no point in which I would consider going back. It has changed my way of looking at the world, and I would say certainly for the better.
In the finishing of my cabin, I have made a conscious effort to have either no negative impact on the environment, but in some cases to reuse items that would otherwise be waste (root cellar walled with earth-packed tires, for instance.) This can be viewed from many perspectives: that we should take care of our mother earth, that less is more, that our wasteful ways need to be reversed…but my own is simply “The Lord Provides.” The interpretation is up to the practitioner, and I am in no position to denounce any effort to help make improvements to the whole world.
It has caused me a few moments of scratching my head about some of the things considered “unusable.” My 2nd floor is decked with 2*12″ douglas fir, because the boards which were 24′ long to begin with were “cosmetically flawed.” I didn’t need boards that large anyhow, so I got what amounts to thousands of dollars of lumber for nothing more than the effort to take them off of a lumber yard.
Ours is a culture of waste, so it becomes increasingly difficult to tell someone living in intentional poverty from someone trying to live a life of “high art.” I have had many compliments on my cabin project, as though it was based in intentional decisions. The truth is, I use stone because it’s free. I use cedar because it’s often removed from areas being cleared for new construction, and the contractors simply want it gone. In the end, the finished product would be far too expensive for me to buy, but it’s simply keeping my eyes open and not being afraid to work hard to make it all useful.
…hilariously, this works to help me improve my climbing strength, which is what I’d be going to a gym for had I stayed in my “old life.”
Food, “So much turkey” , Exercise: Lots of “strap pull ups” with a loading strap hung from the rafters.