Day 28

“I regard monks and poets as the best degenerates in America. Both have a finely developed sense of the sacred potential in all things; both value image and symbol over utilitarian purpose or the bottom line; they recognize the transformative power hiding in the simplest things, and it leads them to commit absurd acts: the poem! the prayer! what nonsense! In a culture that excels at creating artificial, tightly controlled environments (shopping malls, amusement parks, chain motels), the art of monks and poets is useless, if not irresponsible, remaining out of commercial manipulation and ideological justification.”

-Kathleen Norris

The writing gene first emerged in about the fifth grade. It seemed easy and fun to get a rise out of Mrs. Meyer by writing outlandish short stories with “depth” and hilarity like “Attack of the Alligator People,” probably inspired by too much time watching Commander USA’s Groovy Movies. Unmotivated toward success and un-nurtured, I didn’t press the fun of writing. My creativity problem in school just manifested itself in a smart mouth and pranks on the “Valley Girls” and other people I liked.

I listened to music, the great comforter, and simply soaked up what would be only influences outside of Miss Nook and my Granddad Johnston.

I didn’t realize that all that Zeppelin was poetry flanked by guitars. Not until my third year of college, about a year and a half after I transitioned away from writing comedy to poetry, did I understand it fully. The best stuff I had written was very pissed off. Emotion, that delightful antagonist. Anything contrived sounded contrived. Anything angry seemed to have value. A Victorian literature course taught by Gervase Hittle helped me to connect Robert Browning and Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Bob Dylan and Axl Rose.

I began to write profusely and quit changing my major. I stuck with English, finally. I attended poetry readings and released my demons. But you don’t graduate from college and have a rosy cheeked fellow sit across from you and say, “You know, I could really use a good poet like you. Why don’t you start on Monday.”

You have to sort a real job until your lack of utilitarian purpose finds an audience or you crash and burn.

I can identify with the aforementioned quote from Kathleen Norris. We poets and monks live a life of folly. We see the world differently. Thank God. “The world doesn’t make sense,” said Pablo Picasso. “Why should I paint pictures that do?”

I “found God” in a ouija board in college. It’s not that I found him, exactly; it’s just that I realized a spirit world existed, freaked out and jumped on the good side. I then explored God, eventually becoming quite committed, having witnessed many amazing acts.

I’m no monk, but I like more about them than the beer they’re connected to. This weekend I asked myself, “What if we all went to six church services per day?” We’d either get very little done or find a significant shift in our priorities. One of the questions I pondered at the beginning of this project was, “Can one live as a monk in the world?”

Not literally. But can one maintain a deeper connection to the divine and still function in society? There are some committed Christians out there that are overbearing and useless, as well as a few that are downright backward. Can you function and be useful? I’m thinking that the answer is yes, but the path there is different for everybody. What was it that Flannery O’Connor said? “Most of us come to the church by a means that the church does not allow?”

“It is not too soon,” said Henry David Thoreau, “for an honest man to rebel.”

I’m convinced that we are all packed with sacred potential, so go out there and carve yourself a path. God might be there.

About Wilson

J. Wilson is an award-winning homebrewer, BJCP judge and pretty good dad. View all posts by Wilson

10 responses to “Day 28

  • John

    I’ve been following you this whole journey and as a Catholic, it seems to me that you are teetering on the edge of the Tiber, almost poised to take a swim…

    It would be interesting to hear about any spiritual proddings in that direction (if any) throughout your journey, especially having spent time in a monastery.

  • Wilson

    I have more respect for Catholicism than before, but don’t mistake my cracking on certain styles of Christianity for any big shifts. I like the Thames just fine. As I said above, “It is not too soon for an honest man to rebel.” I’ll hike my mountain in my own reverent, yet irreverent way.

  • John

    Fair enough. The Thames is quite nice if I might say so myself, though sometimes a bit murky.

    If you start having questions arise, feel free to send me an email – I’d love to tell you about my own conversion. We’re all in this together after all!

  • Merna

    What was your weight yesterday? My husband heard about you from a member of our family and he thought this was a great idea, being he is also a home-brewer, and beer enthusiast himself. He definitely thought it was possible. Good luck!

  • cavalierbeer

    Saw your article on CNN.com today. Great story; keep it up!

  • John Wallace

    As a homebrewer and Catholic, I had considered a beer fast more than once. Congratulations on having the courage to take the risk and stay on the path! My principal obstacle is that it falls during lacrosse season, which requires me to expend a lot of energy (coaching – I play in the summer these days). Have you been able to do things that require a lot of energy?

  • Michael K. Gause

    Hey, just stumbled across your blog via Facebook. I applaud your journey. From my younger days in the woods of Kingston Springs, TN reading and shooting acorns into the brush fire with a slingshot, to reading poetry in my twenties, to attempting to write it in my thirties, I have known I was something odd. I wouldn’t call myself a monk, though my ways are quite cloistered. I have come to think of myself as a curious aesthete, enjoying the way the neon plays off women’s smiles as much as the way a good fountain pen feels on good paper. This blog speaks to me as very real and reaches me at a pivotal time in my own path.

    Keep writing and thank you.

    Michael

  • Tiffany

    I didn’t know this was going on until I saw it on CNN.com. I think this is really interesting as for my fast during Lent, I chose to refrain from all solid foods. People thought I was crazy for even THINKING about this. Now I can show them your website so they can see that I’m not the only ‘crazy’ one (haha, just kidding). But in all seriousness, I can 100% agree with every little thing you’ve said about this fast on here. Albeit, mine is different… but it has basically become similar.

    I started off VERY hungry. I was drinking tomato soup (and I HATE that soup) every 2 hrs the first week. I made fruit smoothies and drank loads of green tea, water and Boost protein shakes. In the first week, I lost 10 lbs. I was grumpy, I was starving, but I wanted to keep to this. My blood sugar dropped 4 days into the first week. After that first week, I realised I could do this. I stopped being as hungry. I didn’t need tomato or miso soup all the time any more. In fact, I only drink water, tea, vitamin water and a water mix with protein (from Special K) throughout my day now. I’ve lost a total of 25 lbs and I’m only halfway through Lent and I feel FANTASTIC. My sense of smell is ridiculously compared to that of a dog’s because I can smell someone’s lunch in the office, that’s several offices away. I see a food commercial without wanting to punch the tv. I can talk about food without wanting to run to the first McDonald’s. I can be around people eating their lunch for a limited time, but its still better than quarantining that area.

    So, I totally commend your Lenten fast. You’re not the only one, and I’m glad to know, I’m not the only one too.

  • Daniel

    John, I was thinking the same thing. As a Catholic who reads your blog everyday, it seems as the days go by the more “Catholic” your musings sound. As John mentioned, it almost sounds like this process has piqued your curiosity in the faith.

    Either way, I’m inspired by your sacrifice and I’ve greatly enjoyed reading about your journey. God bless!

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