Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Monastic Existence?

When I am in one of my egregiously sentimental moods, I can ignore even my own pet peeves about the rewriting of history for the purposes of selling a neat, cutesy, Kinkade-level narrative about the past in order to imagine myself a part of that idealized and terminally gag-worthy imagined past. It's truly obnoxious, and one of my least favorite things about myself.

And yet I do it. I sit in the draftiest corner of my urban dwelling, and take out my translating work. I then carefully transcribe the next ten lines, and begin checking in my books and sources to create an interlinear gloss. And that stuff is actually necessary for me to translate, a part of my process, so that's all OK.
But THEN, I imagine myself somehow a member of a double house, with no responsibilities other than work in the scriptorium. And my imagination creates a world very like a 1960s-era film of a monastery would be, and completely unlike any reality that probably existed. And somehow my imagination puts my uncle, the dominican priest, in benedictine tonsure while in my celtic monastery with me. Because he's the only clergyperson I know who would want to be in a scriptorium, and makes a damned fine Bloody Mary besides. And if you're going to be in a monastery, there should be family and alcohol around.

And everything is all very peaceful. And all the nuns and monks are rosy-cheeked and get along well. And they smile at each other while singing. And at some point Julie Andrews or Sally Field or that singing nun from France show up.

Sickening, right? But anyway, there's a subjunctive on the seventh line and a technicolor confection in my head, and I'm happy.

But THEN something like this happens, and I read about it, and I remember that nuns and monks are often completely badass, and the real history of the monasteries was so much better than my maudlin technicolor imaginings can be now.