This seems the perfect post for a Friday: A friend of mine spent a semester of her college years studying abroad in Egypt. One of the elements about that experience she had most looked forward to was a trek into the desert for a three day retreat at a monastary. My friend was particularly interested in both community and spirituality and couldn’t wait to experience the serenity and fellowship she’d always imagined that monastic life to embodied. Unfortunately, the expectant mood that had characterized her sojourn into the desert dissipated significantly with the tour the students were given immediately on arrival. “One of our first stops,” she told me, “was the kitchen and refectory. We had arrived in the evening and so happened upon two monks arguing about who’s turn it was to do the dishes!”
Ah, well, so much for romanticizing the monastic life!
That story came back to me when I came across this illustration in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings, courtesy Lapham’s Quarterly, of the comments of some of the monks charged with copying sacred Scripture. When we look at the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, I suspect we are similarly prone to romanticizing the sacred and artistic nature of the task. But from these comments – left in the margins by the copyists and therefore called “marginalia” – we can rest assured that monks, too, murmured about the occasional drudgery of their work. My favorite is, perhaps, “Thank God it will soon be dark!”
And so in honor of these murmuring monks, and any of the rest of us who are ready for a break for work and looking forward to the weekend, I’ll only say…TGIF!