Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad Monks and the Rest of Us

Regular reader Ink has an interesting post on her blog "With Eager Feet" about something I said concerning Bad Monks and Actors.

Ink writes ...


Some time ago, I had the chance to meet Kevin, owner of Theatre of the Word, Inc. I now consider him a friend (and hope he considers me the same, even with the age difference). Something he said in one of our conversations stuck with me, and I will do my best to repeat it here:

Actors are basically bad monks. Monks devote themselves fully and completely to one subject–prayer. Actors do the same thing for theatre, but they have strayed from their path along the way. That’s why they’re all so messed-up.”

I would like to make the same case for architects. I am frequently here in studio till all hours of the night, working, talking, laughing–always in studio. And many of my classmates are here with me. We throw ourselves headlong into our work and only come up for air when a project is over, at which point in time we promptly fall asleep on the nearest horizontal surface. This is entirely normal and expected of us. We live like ascetics – cloistered in studio, often eating only one meal a day. ... All we talk or think about is architecture, or studio this, or studio that. ... I have slept in studio. ... I frequently eat in studio. My friends are in studio. ... And I work, and work, and work, late into the night.

So, Kevin–I think architects just might beat actors in terms of “bad monks.” Minus the universally accepted norm of “messed-up is okay,” of course (though we still do have our weirdos).

Excerpt taken from Memoirs of a Bad Monk, a book as of yet unwritten by Ink.


To which I responded ...


Maybe it's not Actors and Architects who are bad monks. Maybe Monks are just good actors or good architects.

Pictured: the Incredibly Sexy amoral hero Howard Roark, uber-architect from Ayn Rand's novel about how power is sexier than love.

You know, Ink, you’re at that age when most girls fall in love with that hunk of a dreamer-architect-Nietzchian what’s-his-name in that awful Ayn Rand book about how architects without morality are better than non-geniuses who actually care about people. I forget the name of the book. Don’t read it. Just wait for a Hallmark movie about sexy architects and you’ll do better.

Anyway, my point is that this kind of devotion is really only virtuous if it’s an expression of love. If you love your art, your craft, your writing, and if your love and the fruits of your love bring greater glory to God and benefit to your neighbor, then by all means give up everything for this pearl of great price – sleep in studio, miss meals, live out of your car. I mean, if you get married and have kids, you’ll do all that for your kids – stay up all night when they’re sick, miss meals so they can eat better, sacrifice everything for them – and gladly.

But we also see people live this way because they’re losers or addicts. And many a non-genius businessman with a beer gut will sleep in the office and miss meals to make that project deadline – and not really out of love or for the greater glory of God, but for a more selfish reason.

So it’s important that our sacrifices, our asceticisms, our loves, are prioritized. There always tends to seep in that love of self, that desire to be admired and adored (at least it does in my case) – and that is utter poison, turning “losing your life to gain your life” into “losing your life to gain power over life – and over others”.

May we always beg God to purify our hearts that we may, even in the midst of our mixed motives, always make true sacrifices for His sake, not false sacrifices for our own sake.

1 comment:

Kevin O'Brien said...

Well, it turns out Ink wrote a very perceptive comment on her own blog post and didn't bother to share it here!

Here it is ...


I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love it. To design, to create, to innovate… it is almost as if we are sharing a very small part of our Lord by doing so. Like children playing grown-up. Something interesting about the job of an architect is to make our work instantly legible to anyone with eyes. This, to me, seems a ghost of a shade of the relationship between God and His angels–they automatically have knowledge just by examining a situation and do not need to reason through it. Our diagrams and presentations should do the same by allowing the viewer to understand almost instantly.