09 March 2008

A Hermit's Cave

In my cave the temperature remains constant. Sitting on my woven mat I meditate, trying to find the silent place in my heart. You'd think that being alone in a cave would be enough silence, but every spiritual athlete knows that there is an inner silence that can only be achieved by force, that is, by conquering the passions.

While advancing toward the uncreated light I heard this voice one day, "Huloo! Anyone in here?"

I don't usually get visitors of any kind. Occasionally another brother will stop by with some bread or to hear my confession. When I saw this visitor, though, he was quite unusual—he wore a suit and tie and was carrying a canister with a long neck and hose.

"Good afternoon," he smiled, "You look like someone in need of a high quality vacuum."

"What does this vacuum do?"

"Well," replied the visitor, "It sucks up dirt to keep your whole house clean."

I know that I should greet all visitors with warmth and kindness, but I couldn't resist sarcasm, "I live in a cave, with a dirt floor."

Undaunted he replied, "Let me plug it in and show you how powerful this baby is."

Some people just don't get it, "I live in a cave, with a dirt floor. I have no electricity."

"Not only is this a vacuum, but it also has a filter to purify the air," the man added, "It's also a wet vac so you can suck up any spills."

"Sir, you aren't listening," I could feel annoyance welling up within me, "I live in a cave. I have a dirt floor. I have no electricity. My air is fine. I will not be needing your device."

"But it's only..."

I interrupted, "I am a hermit. A monk. I have no money."

"You could try it for thirty days free of charge, and only pay if you decide to keep it."

"Are you the devil?" I asked him.

"What?" I guess I finally shook him from his sales pitch.

"Are you a devil sent here to tempt me? Only the devil would come here all dressed up trying to sell me something I don't need. Are you trying to tempt me by showing me what I left behind in the world? Are you mocking me? I am content with my cave and the dirt floor. My poverty does not bother me since I am fed like Elias by the birds of the air. If you are a mere man I will gladly pray for you, but I have no need for your vacuum."

"Did I mention the lifetime warranty? I'll even throw in two extra HEPA filters at no charge."

Anger bubbled up within me. This man must be a demon. Trembling I sat down in front of my icon corner. I slowly breathed a prayer fumbling with my prayer rope, hoping he would go away, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ..."

I made it all the way around my prayer rope when I heard his voice, "It looks like I caught you at a bad time. I'll leave my business card here, so if you want to think about it, or talk to the lady of the house, you can give me a call when you make a decision."

There is an inner silence that can only be achieved by force, that is, by conquering the passions. Just when I think I've achieved it, something or someone comes along to test it. I am reminded that despite the greatest effort the journey is not over. Each trial serves to make me stronger.

This place could use a bit of cleaning, even if it is just a cave with a dirt floor.

~David Samuel Thomas

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