As I grow older, I am starting to understand more and more the raison d’etre behind monks and monasteries, as I am seriously considering if such a lifestyle would suit my retirement and empty nest life stages.
I’ve been thinking about how people like me who have stopped caring about what others think of us, who are considering what life would be like when our kids no longer live with us, and have simple needs when it comes to food, clothing, and shelter, would probably do well in some kind of quasi-modern-monastery set up.
When I look at how I think and live my life at this point in my life, I can see my lifestyle as that of a semi-monk. I don’t need flashy stuff…. my priorities are with things that may cost a little bit more not to impress or to keep up with the Joneses, because they are reliable and work as they should when they are needed. That goes for clothes, tech, and food. I don’t need a lot of furniture, just the comfy ones that I need and use every day. Heck, I don’t even need to go out of my home, unless absolutely necessary.
If there was a “monastery,” say in the mountains of DSB or Patag, where there is great internet, decent food, and shared household amenities and staff that can provide for basic needs like cleaning, cooking, and laundry, along with common areas for hobbies or general leisure, I’d probably sell my worldly possessions to live the rest of my life there, after our nest is empty and my wife and I go into retirement mode.
If you come to think of it, I’m starting to understand why monks wear robes now, which is obviously so they don’t have to think about what to wear. I wouldn’t go that far of course, unless it is proven to me that robe-wearing is indeed more comfy and hasslefree, but I wouldn’t mind being provided a uniform either, if it means having one less thing to think about.
Simple food, simple clothes, a small room with a comfy bed, good internet, a common area for socials, leisure and hobbies. If a non-religious or religious order offered that, I’d be willing to pay a monthly upkeep fee just to get out of too-long prayer time and/or go out every day to beg for food the way some monks do.
When we think about monks, it always turns religious. So on that subject, which includes meditation, or prayer, supposedly integral parts of monastic living, this is where an abbot who can impart a modern twist can make it appealing to people like me who are not as pious as my wife. Imagine a monastery or order where we could choose our form of meditation: computer gaming, gardening, fitness, sports, reading, cooking, baking, or learning something. Of course, if you wish, you can also pray and meditate as a traditional monk would.
But what about the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, a proper monk may ask?
This is where we’d have a potential issue because if you come to think of it, like the requirement of being run by a religious order, it is those vows that probably keep order in most monasteries, and probably the reason why my dream monastery doesn’t exist yet.
Without obedience to the rules, and some sort of vow of poverty to keep things and expectations simple, there is no way to avoid and easily resolve conflicts of expectations among the residents of such a monastery. Just like religions, the vast differences between a person’s definition of a monastic lifestyle could result in incompatibilities which could lead to petty wars that can turn the experience from one that is supposed to be a peaceful retirement into potential early hell on earth.
Finding that type of monastery, led by a head monk who can keep order and harmony, would be the toughest part in this dream retirement scenario.
So, if I really want my dream monastery, it looks like I should start my own cult or religion while I still can. That way I can take the money of my willing subjects to build my version of paradise on earth, and since I am their divine leader, I get to lay down my rules that they will have to follow, or risk having their souls burn for eternity.
In the end, maybe I’m just at that point in my life when I start thinking of the ideal retirement home or community, where people at the same stage of life as me can live and enjoy the services and amenities I think I’d need, and most especially, where nobody needs to show off because we are all grown adults who have already been there and done that. Fellow monks with a common outlook… that’s what I must be looking for.
For those with a big family or circle of friends, that dream monastery already exists. All we have to do is nurture it, or maybe even go a few steps further and work to make it a reality if possible, especially for those that live in family compounds. Making a small community where there is harmony and sharing of resources should be a common goal for those of us who are already looking at slowing down and retiring within the next decade or so. We simply have to start somewhere.*