Longing for Community
While a longing for community—a desire for real relationship with God and other people—may bring us to monastic wisdom, the wisdom itself pushes back against our desires, suggesting that our longings are not enough. Benedict knows that a simple desire for community will not create healthy community. In fact, our hopes and dreams about community may be our greatest obstacle to true fellowship with others.
Marketing firms today understand that “community” sells, because people want it. They don’t tell us how carbonated sugar water will help us or even how good it tastes. They show us pictures of people enjoying life together while holding cans of the drink they want us to buy. But we know that community is more than a soda shared with friends. We still haven’t found what we’re looking for.
Benedict knows that we need a better way forward. Community can’t be based on our own best ideals. It can’t be reduced to seven easy steps. God is not a means by which we can achieve our ideals; other people don’t want to be a means either. The key to life together, Benedict sees, is learning to submit our own desires to the reality of others’ needs and to God’s direction for what life should look like. This is why, from the very beginning of the Rule, listening is the essential work. This way of life is shaped around learning to listen to God and to other people. “Listen, my child,” the Rule begins. And it keeps whispering the same wisdom to us, again and again.