So far as is possible, the monastery ought to be so planned that all requirements, such as water, mill, garden and the various crafts, are all available inside the enclosure, so that there may be no need for the monks to go out abroad, for this is not at all good for their souls.
Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 66
Well, I'm home from the Old Smoke. It was great fun, and there was much excitement. Perhaps the best thing about conferences and meetings, especially when you've been doing the same sort of job for a very long time and some of the shine has worn off, is seeing old friends and respected colleagues. When I was a lay-about teenager, and terrified of entering adult life, I rather wish someone had sat me down and described the pleasures of working life, and how you create a social world for yourself of fascinating people, contacts and acquaintances, as well as close and enduring friendships, that will stand you well in every aspect of your life.
I must say that a weekend like that, no matter how difficult or tiring it may be (my brain kept whispering "You're forty-nine! You're forty-nine!") very much makes you appreciate the colourful, complex and deeply engaging landscape that a long and fruitful involvement in public work can create. I can't help but think that a big part of the reason people get addicted to these silly online fantasy games is that they have not made sufficient use of the real life they've been offered.
Life isn't just for "living," which I think many people equate with enduring until the weekend or until happy hour, it's for building. Your day to day life is really no more than a framework, a blank slate, like my little garden; just a piece of mostly empty ground with a few built-in advantages and disadvantages, upon which we must exercise our imagination and effort.
But I must say, I am very glad to be home. All the fun aside, the noise, the crowds, the confusion, the dirt and grub, the awful buses, the constant pestering at every corner by gypsy beggars... even the road surface, whether you're walking or biking or driving, is like a complete assault on the psyche. Rome is a hell of a lot of work to deal with, a great deal more than I'm comfortable dealing with, and I'm very, very glad I live far enough away to make it pretty impractical to go there more than once in a great while.
Norcia is certainly close enough to go if you have to, and - even better - for people to come here and visit quite a lot. In fact, I've had a nearly constant stream of visitors since I moved here, and there have been days when, if I wanted to get any work done, whether paid writing or simply gardening, I've had to pretty much avoid town altogether. I certainly don't lack a social life.
But nice as it is to see people coming through, and fun as it is to tell them all about it and show them around, and introduce them to the joys of stewed wild boar and monk-beer, it is very nice at the end of the day to go home and sit quietly upon one's own stoop, and sip the tea and watch the birds settling down for the night.