I recently finished John Tettemer’s book “I Was a Monk”. The true story of a man who enters the Passionate society of monks within the Catholic church, works his way to a Counselor General in Rome, and resigns his vows after 25 years.
It takes place in the very early part of the past century, and I suspect monastery life has changed little since.
I was disappointed. I had hoped that the story would include the trials and pains of transitioning from a cloistered life, where all of ones needs are taken care of in Monastery. It ends with the renouncing of his vows and, left me wanting to know more.
In the year or so before his departure, he spent all of his time in the Swiss Alps, recovering from a bout with Tuberculosis. Most of that time was spent in deep and silent contemplation, meditation, and prayer. During his 25 years in the monastery, he, like all other monks, studied philosophy and theology intensely, and completely…every philosophy, every philosopher, and every theory of life and existence. And of course, the dogma and doctrine of the Holy Roman Church. There was little about thought and theories of life, and existence, and death, that he did not know of.
Toward the end of his convalescence, it became clear to him that everything that he had come to believe, simply was not true. Both about the church, as well as the questions of life and death. He did not stop believing in God, and Jesus, and the holy spirit, just the methods and beliefs of the Catholic (and other) religions.
What did arouse my interest about the end of his story, is not the collapse of religious beliefs, but more so the finality of his philosophic beliefs. I have read philosophy, and, thought about the questions that thinking people consider, namely who we are, why are we here, what is the meaning of life, what comes after death,and so on. I am happy to say that his conclusion with regard to these questions that we all ask…is that they are questions that have no answers, and, that they are, and always will be, unanswerable. This in addition to some questions being ridiculous to ask, such as are we really a being? What is a being? Is the world around us real or an illusion..a dream?
I am relieved that this burden of thought has been lifted from my being. And yes, I am a “being”. And the world is indeed round, gravity is real, I am real,you are real, and no…it is not an illusion! I believe that when we die, all existence comes to an end, and we go back into whatever we were before we were born, simply black nothingness. I believe there is no meaning to life, except to live it, and live good. And, I will continue to study the philosophy of Ethics because of the value it brings to all of us in terms of our daily behavior as humans.
Two words can guide us throughout life, ethics and integrity and these two behaviors encompass all that is good or bad in our lives.
And I didn’t have to spend 25 years in a monastery to come to these conclusions.