Thursday, 25 March 2010
Mum and the Monk
I’ve never mentioned what else my Mum does.
Yes, she works in the shop but that’s only a tiny bit of it.
My Mum and her two friends actually founded and run an organisation called Silence in the City.
It’s a big deal.
They arrange for the ‘superstars’ of contemplative living to come to London to give talks on the value of silence in modern day life.
It goes deeper than that of course. These things often do.
Franciscans, Dominicans, Trappists, Revs, Dr's... some names have drawn in over four hundred listeners.
Half the post we get in the shop is addressed to Silence in the City.
You could almost say the shop is just a front for their operations.
People ring up and think the shop is their office.
They’re often women who speak very quietly and I want to tell them they’re taking the ‘Silence’ bit too far and would they speak up please.
The contemplatives that give these talks are not the types to preach hellfire to shoppers on Oxford Street or sell exclusive tickets to heaven.
These speakers are wise, humble, gentle and good-humoured.
They’re not interested in strengthening dangerous myths that cause separation between religions and cultures. Instead they shed light on our own repetitive thought patterns and separation within.
We had a monk stay with us last week who’d come all the way from Wisconsin.
He arrived at Kings Cross Station in full monk garb and Mum still took ages to spot him.
I thought he looked like a character from Monty Python in his long blue robe.
Once home, I made him a cup of tea.
“I’m going to give you a superior biscuit,” Mum said, and handed him a packet of almond turrón.
That’s not a biscuit! I thought in alarm.
Turrón is made of caramelised almonds and is so hard you could use it to build a fortress.
If our monk was disappointed, he didn’t show it.
He tried to break it with his teeth then with his hands.
It was still intact when he finished his tea.
“I’m going upstairs to soak it,” he said brightly.
He retired to the spare bedroom where Mum had left out a copy of Shop Girl Diaries which you’ll agree is essential monk reading material.
I know he read some because he talked to me about it later on.
For supper, he removed his blue tabard and was all in black.
“I like your undergarments,” Mum said, dishing up her famous brown rice.
“I haven’t had anyone say that to me for a while,” he said with a big smile, then added, “It’s called a tunic.”
I don’t think Mum realised she’d complimented him on his underwear until later.
Forget piety and preacher men with secret agendas.
Good humour is a lot better for the soul.
N.B. Illustration by my Mum, Jill Benet