I am the abbot of an abbey of out-of-control monks. How they ever
monks is a mystery that only the Almighty can solve. Yet they are in my charge, and I, though sometimes only nominally in charge, I accountable for their foibles.
There's Larry, the sports enthusiast who knows next to nothing about sports. He loves watching the sames, but can't tell a red line from a blue line or a squeeze play from a screen play.
There's Nebbish, the scientist. Not quite smart enough for Scientific American, but loves look at pictures of stars and planets. He can name all of 15 constellations! He knows we are star stuff! But talk of quantum fluctuations, multiverses and hydrocarbon links leaves him cold. And gasping for air.
There's Carlos, the lover, who loves all the women of the world and knows they love him back. Carlos has spent the last few decades rattling his chains in his dungeon. Letting him out for air is a terrifying prospect for the Abey's good name.
There's Aloysius, the moralist, deacon and preacher. He is prolix and unbending and had his run early on. But the reality of guilt-by-association with his brother monks has tempered his once towering outbursts of pious indignation.
There's Lucky, the calculator and Aloysius's prime foil and sometimes ally. Lucky is cold and does the math about which friends are worthy of the Abbey's largesse. When he and Aloysius work together, they become a team of calculating moralists. When hey are at odds, it's usually Brother Aloysius who will guide Lucky to the high road where walk the unpopular and the dangerous-to-know.
There's Bill, the lush and layabout, who likes nothing more than to while away hour after buzzy hour imbibing the visual products of others. Brother Bill thinks the Internet is the greatest invention since the cathode ray tube.
There's Fingers, who delights in skimming little bits of time. Arriving for morning prayer at 6:05, it's Fingers idea to report that he was there at 6:00. He's the one who -- only in an emergency, mind you! -- will illicitly engage the scriptorium to copy a few pages of psalms when he's late for choir practice.
There's Brother Pugnacious, always ready for a scrap or a sharp word or a
, as longs as it cuts just a little. Watch yourself when he and Aloysius are on speaking terms.
There's Preener, who loves to be lead voice in the choir and head jokester at the refectory table. It's a rare retreat in which Brother Preener doesn't drop a pithy insight for the delight of the other retreatants. And himself.
In the background, there are other monks. Brother Socrates, who thinks deeply about most anything. Brother Cecil, who sings tolerably well and writes the odd chant. Brother Pius, plying his beads in the chapel day and night. Brother Corey, who tends to keep to himself, but when roused, weeps tears of pity and loss. And Brother Manuel, who is not too bright when thinking up projects, but keeps the abbey in good order when a visiting Abbess gives him a list of chores.
My Abbey. Over time, I, the Abbott, have allowed my various brother monks to have more or less influence over my decisions. Carlos had his run, much to the chagrin of the Abbess, who was newly installed. But Aloysius keeps him in line. Aloysius has tended toward silence lately. He is moral enough to know that his luster, such as it is, has been dulled by association with the flock of dullards and sinners with which he shares bread.
Over the years, the more voluble of the monks -- Preener, Aloysius, Carlos, Pugnacious -- have toned down their presence at the Abbey. Though their murmuring still echo through the abbey halls, they have grown old, tired and mostly silent. In some cases, like that of Brother Pugnacious, they have undergone conversions of heart. The calculations of Brother Lucky -- who turns his arithmetical skills inward as well as outwards -- have persuade some of our monks that their talents can bring disrepute to the Abbey and rarity of invitations to the Abbot's table. They are not entirely fools, my monks, and all have some measure of loyalty to their place of residence.
And the Abbot? He grows old, too. And some say wiser. But he is the one who keeps the secret history of the Abbey -- from its founding through the recruiting of the monks who have taken residence here, through tumultuous periods of infighting when the more ebullient brothers took their turns at the Abbott's table. Today, my table is frequented more by the quieter monks of the early years; those who were elbowed out of the way during the wild, strange period. And a few monks, locked into their cells in the very early days, were released from their bondage. Cecil was one, whose sweet pluckings and chants went unheard for many years. And Brother Solomon, who sentenced himself to internal exile, unable to endure the taunts and jeers of monks from other abbeys.
Yet these are all my brothers. I call upon them all of the for counsel from time to time. And may the Creator and Father of us all guide me to choose wisely among them.