Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 169

We are approaching the first anniversary of the historic 2017 Women’s March on Washington. Old Monk is a bit disappointed that the momentum from that event—one that caught the imagination of the world—never realized its potential as an organized resistance to what ails the land.

I was reading an article on creativity and imagination in Poets & Writers Magazine that opened with these lines from the Raymond Carver poem, “Looking for Work”:

I have always wanted brook trout
for breakfast

Suddenly, I find a new path
to the waterfall.


If any of us want “peace and justice” for breakfast the poet gives us a hint. We have to find a “new path to the waterfall.” A kind of action that captures the imagination of enough people to cause a tipping point. Something similar to what occurred in Poland during the early days of Solidarity when the Soviet Union did its best to suppress the liberation movement. To demonstrate resistance to the Soviet occupation and its propaganda machine, 30,000 Polish citizens in one town, turned their television sets towards the windows during the 7:30 evening news and walked up and down the main street. The “newswalks” spread across the county.

And I recently read about an imaginative action that occurred in East Germany during the Soviet takeover. Since all printed material had to be authorized by the government, the peace movement there sidestepped the law and printed three words on pieces of fabric: swords into plowshares. These pieces of cloth were then sewn of jeans, jackets, and other pieces of clothing. The government went ballistic and began forcibly removing them from clothing, or at least tried to. That, too, united the people and was evidence of Ignazio Silone’s burning truth: “The land of propaganda is built on unanimity. If one person says NO the spell is broken and pubic order is endangered.”

On the other hand, I’m also repeating the Carver poem in my heart to unlock my own barrier to finishing a book that I’ve started years ago. Why do I keep going down the same dead ends and never reaching the desired waterfall where I can catch a trout and pan fry it for breakfast, or, in my case, finish a book? I know each dead end, only too well—no time, not enough imagination, no real reason it has to be done, too late in life. And yet, I can’t shake the taste of that trout. So, if you see me wandering around with a fishing pole slung over my shoulder, you’ll understand.

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A blog by Mary Lou Kownacki
A personal journal captures what’s in the heart. Most of my adult life I’ve recorded my notes, brief reflections, poems, reactions to daily events in a journal. It is an ongoing source of monastic formation; the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. About a year ago, Old Monk began to appear on my journal’s pages. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator.

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