“ When we do not like certain laws, we do not break the heads of the law-givers but we suffer and do not submit to the laws. That we should obey laws whether good or bad is a new-fangled notion. There was no such thing in former days. The people disregarded those laws they did not like and suffered the penalties for their breach.”
— M. K. Ghandi, Satyagraha
Reading through St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries in my morning study time right now. It’s basically the handbook that monks used throughout the Middle Ages and gives a ton of insight to how they structured their lives and chased after virtue.
There’s a super funny piece, though, in chapter 8: On the Divine Office During the Night. Remember before you read these sleep requirements by St. Benedict, this passage falls in the context of monks waking up to pray and then falling asleep again :
In winter time, that is from the Calends of November until Easter, the brethren shall rise at what is calculated to be the eighth hour of the night, so that they may sleep somewhat longer than half the night and rise with their rest completed. And the time that remains after the Night Office should be spent in study by those brethren who need a better knowledge of the Psalter or the lessons.
That’s right. 8 hours of sleep was pretty much commanded by St. Benedict, the chief abbot of the Benedictine monks, because he wanted them fully rested for the task at hand — often this included taking care of war-torn refugees and homeless and starving children during national conflicts like the Crusades or The War of The Roses. You know, The War of The Roses — the historical conflict on which Game of Thrones was based. And you thought it was hard for YOU to fulfill sleep requirements like 8 hours of sleep.
Oh and there’s another bit:
From Easter to the aforesaid Calends of November, the hour of rising should be so arranged that the Morning Office, which is to be said at daybreak, will follow the Night Office after a very short interval, during which the brethren may go out for the necessities of nature.
So if you need to wake up to pee, St. Benedict says that’s cool too. Actually, the whole point of saying that is to distinguish between nighttime in the winter (the first quote) and nighttime in the summer. You gotta remember: these guys didn’t have central heating. Encouraging them to stay indoors during the winter nights was as much of a conservation of energy command — even a health command — as it was for restful sleep. Burlap robes are warm, but they’re not solar blankets from NASA.
Anyways it’s nice to know the monks were flexible in their sleep requirements.
My sister Lauren graciously gave Tara and I tickets to William Fitzsimmons last night for Christmas and we discovered the wonderful, moving protest songs of Laura Burnhenn. She played Buffalo Flower for us last night and I don’t think any song in my life — any hymn, any protest song, anything I’ve written only for myself — has made me cry as much as this song when she first said the word “king.”
In her words:
We’re in Manhattan tonight, which was called Manna-hatta by the Lenape people – the Native Americans who lived here before the Dutch stole it from them, killed them off, and the Europeans that followed exiled them to small reservations all across the midwest. The same thing happened to the Lakota people in Dakota who are protesting against an oil company to save what was their G** d*** land in the first place.
Then she played this song:
Buffalo Flower Laura Burnhenn
It was as though the country were saying to its citizens, “In nonsense is strength.”
A lot of the nonsense was the innocent result of playfulness… but some of the nonsense was evil. For example, teachers of children in The United States of America wrote this date on blackboards again and again and asked children to memorize it with pride and joy:
The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, human beings had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.
“Now we shall take the example given by you of the thief to be driven out. I do not agree with you that the theif may be driven out by any means. If it is my father who has come to steal I shall use one kind of means. If it is an acquaintance I shall use another; and in the case of a perfect stranger I shall use a third. If it is a white man, you will perhaps say you will use means different from those you will adopt with an Indian thief. If it is a weakling, the means will be different from those to be adopted for dealing with an equal in physical strength; and if the thief is armed from top to toe, I shall simply remain quiet. Thus we have a variety of means between the father and the armed man. Again, I fancy that I should pretend to be sleeping whether the thief was my father or that strong armed man. The reason for this is that my father would also be armed and I should succumb to the strength possessed by either and allow my things to be stolen. The strength of my father would make me weep with pit; the strength of the armed man would rouse in me anger and we should become enemies. Such is the curious situation. From these examples we may not be able to agree as to the means to be adopted in each case. I myself seem clearly to see what should be done in all these cases, but the remedy may frighten you. I therefore hesitate to place it before you. For the time being I will leave you to guess it, and if you cannot, it is clear you will have to adopt different means in each case. You will also have seen that any means will not avail to drive away the thief. You will have to adopt means to fit each case. Hence it follows that your duty is not to drive away the thief by any means you like.
“Let us proceed a little further. That well-armed man has stolen your property; you have harboured the thought of his act; you are filled with anger; you argue that you want to punish that rogue, not for your own sake, but for the good of your neighbours; you have collected a number of armed me, you want to take his house by assault; he is duly informed of it, he runs away; he too is incensed. He collects his brother robbers, and sends you a defiant message that he will commit robbery in broad daylight. You are strong, you do not fear him, you are prepared to receive him. Meanwhile, the robber pesters your neighbours. They complain before you. You reply that you are doing all for their sake, you do not might that your own goods have been stolen. Your neighbours reply that the robber never pestered them before and that he commenced his depredations only after you declared hostilities against him. You are between Scylla and Charybdis. You are full of pity for the poor men. What they say is true. What are you to do? You will be disgraced if you now leave the robber alone. You, therefore, tell the poor men: ‘Never mind. Come, my wealth is yours, I will give you alms, I will teach you how to use them; you should belabour the rogue; don’t you leave him alone.’ And so the battle grows; the robbers increase in numbers; your neighbours have deliberately put themselves to inconvenience. Thus the result of wanting to take revenge upon the robber is that you have disturbed your own peace; you are in perpetual fear of being robbed and assaulted; your courage has given place to cowardice. If you will patiently examine the argument, you will see that I have not overdrawn the picture. This is one of the means. Now let us examine the other. You set this armed robber down as an ignorant brother; you intent to reason with him at a suitable opportunity; you argue that he is, after all, a fellow man; you do not know what prompted him to steal. You, therefore, decide that, when you can, you will destroy the man’s motive for stealing. Whilst you are thus reasoning with yourself, the man comes again to steal. Instead of being angry with him you take pity on him. You think that this stealing habit must be a disease with him. Henceforth, you, therefore, keep your doors and windows open, you change your sleeping-place, and you keep your things in a manner most accessible to him. The robber comes again and is confused as all this is new to him; nevertheless he takes away your things. But his mind is agitated. He inquires about you in the village, he comes to learn about your pardon, returns you your things, and leaves off the stealing habit. He becomes your servant, and you will find for him honourable employment. This is the second method. Thus, you see, different means have brought about totally different results. I do not wish to deduce from this that robbers will act in the above manner or that all will have the same pity and love like you, but I only wish to show that fair means alone can produce fair results, and that, at least in the majority of cases, if not indeed in all, the force of love and pity is infinitely greater than the force of arms. There is harm in the excercise of brute force, never in that of pity.”
— M. K. Ghandi, Satyagraha