I’ve been thinking about monks lately. Like most people, I’ve always had a healthy respect for these ascetic religious men and their accomplishments. I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about them unless I’m watching “Robin Hood” or some such. (Okay, technically Tuck wasn’t a monk. He was a Friar. Close enough.) Admittedly, I often get bogged down in the poor choices they made regarding fabrics and hairstyles. Burlap and tonsures? Really? In consideration of their contributions to humanity, I think we can give them a pass on the modern-day equivalent of a potato sack and a mullet. We can probably assume that they had more important things on their minds, like manuscript illumination, the fermentation of beer and fine spirits, and maintaining the writings of the Ancients. All of which, by the way, were just their day jobs! In their spare time they sought to solve the mysteries of astronomy, botany, and mathematics. (Among other things.) Guys like Copernicus, Mendel, and Kepler (to name a few) dedicated their lives to studying and recording information in their respective fields. Further, their theories have stood the test of time and things like the electron microscopes.
I have a theory that they were successful not merely because they were intelligent, though certainly they were, but also because they had time. Time to ponder. Time to invent. Time to theorize. Time to read. Time to reflect upon the natural and spiritual worlds. They also had fewer distractions. No Facebook! No Words with Friends! They had little, if any, conversation. Come on, think about it. They ate. They prayed. They learned stuff. They invented things so they could learn more stuff. Oh, and they did these things in an atmosphere of peace and quiet. They did have to put up with the chanting, which might have been mildly distracting, not to mention annoying as hell, but that couldn’t have gone on all day. I envy them their relative noiselessness. They must have been able to hear themselves think. Imagine that.
I don’t know about you, but there is hardly a minute that goes by in my waking life when I’m not being yammered at or otherwise disturbed with nonsense. By people. Mostly the ones that live with me. The latest in the ongoing drama that is my life has to do with bathroom fixtures or, more specifically, with someone’s inability to properly operate this equipment. Call me crazy, but I enjoy a fully flushed toilet. This has been an ongoing source of frustration. One need not be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who is having trouble with the complete flush. There are three people who live here. And one cat. I know it’s not me. I’m also fairly certain it’s not the cat. (I’ve actually heard that cats can be trained to use a toilet. Alas, The Great Fanganini is not one of those cats. Even if he were, I doubt he could be taught to flush, which is a shame because I would really like to meet Mr. David Letterman.) I know it’s not Fang. I know this because he is very private about his bathroom affairs. Very private. It’s Fangette. I know it’s her. I am, in fact, 100% sure that it is her. Again, not because I have exceptional powers of deduction, but because (like any responsible and sensitive parent would), I laid in wait and caught her red-handed, so to speak. We have had several, apparently futile, conversations about how ridiculously lazy, unsanitary, and downright disgusting this behavior is.
I should mention that we are in possession of a “deluxe” toilet bowl. I stumbled upon this bit of information when I had to replace the toilet seat. I, of course, purchased a “standard” seat only to realize when I got it home that it was too small. For the record and for those of you who may find yourselves in a similar situation: choose wisely. Target does not allow returns on opened toilet seats (which, I suppose, is actually an excellent policy). I don’t know if the fact that we own a “deluxe” commode has anything to do with it or not, but in order for the bowl to evacuate its contents, one must hold the handle down, wait for it to try to bounce back up again, and then release said handle. It also makes a subtle little clicking noise as it empties. So, yeah, it’s a little quirky. I have a theory that it’s meant to be that way— some “deluxe” method of saving water, perhaps. But, what do I know? Do I look like a plumber? Whether it’s designed to operate this way or it does so of its own volition is, frankly, immaterial. The point is that most normal people would hold the handle down, wait for the almost imperceptible jerk, and listen for the noise while watching their business disappear.
Obviously, my daughter is neither “most people” nor is she “normal”. The fraction of a second that she saves by wandering off prior to seeing the completion of this task is clearly more important to her than her pride. Unless she is proud of her bowel movements. That’s certainly not something I had previously considered. I don’t think so, though. Nope. It’s laziness.
Her slothfulness in this area led to an all-out war in this house last night between Fang and Fangette. I tried to keep out of it. I had more important things on my mind. Like, for example, what exactly, is that British program “Top Gear” about? I was watching it when all hell broke loose. It’s not the first episode I’ve ever watched, but I really have no idea what the point of this program is. And, who is the host? The big guy? The little guy? I’m baffled.
At some point during this scintillating bit of programming, I pondered pomegranate juice. I’m not altogether sure how my mind made the crazy leap from whatever “Top Gear” is to exotic fruit, but it did. The connection may have been “things that perplex me”. I am slightly vexed by the pomegranate. I get that it’s an antioxidant (whatever that is), so that’s a positive. On the negative side, though, it is the storied “forbidden fruit” that led to the downfall of mankind. Eve, I think, would be appalled at the price of pomegranate juice. Fourteen bucks for 8 oz. of juice? That’s just crazy, isn’t it? Listen, I understand why it’s expensive. The juice is in the seeds. The very small seeds. So, it probably takes 100 pomegranates to generate an ounce of juice. The process must be unimaginably labor intensive. I’d imagine that there must be pomegranate farms cropping up worldwide to keep up with the sudden increased demand for this formerly marginal fruit. I would think there’d have to be, wouldn’t you? Think about it. How many pomegranates have you purchased/consumed in your lifetime? I like them, but let’s be honest, they’re a helluva lot of work for a very small reward. (I feel this way about unshelled peanuts and sunflower seeds, too.) I’m 47 and I’ve probably eaten a dozen pomegranates in my whole life. They enjoyed some popularity in the 70s, as I recall, but that surge was nothing in comparison to the pomegranate frenzy we are currently experiencing. Also, what’s with the acai berry? Has anyone actually ever seen an acai berry?
I never did get to solve either the “Top Gear” or the pomegranate dilemma, as my peaceful reverie was shattered when Fang (who had previously been blaming me for the unflushed bowl— the nerve!) realized that his darling daughter was the actual culprit. I’m not sure exactly how or why, but things between Fang and Fangette heated up pretty quickly. The argument progressed from name-calling to door-slamming. I knew I would have to intervene before things escalated to crying (Fang’s) and descended into swearing (mine). While it’s likely I will never be able to wrap my mind around “Top Gear”, I do believe that I was making some headway regarding the pomegranate. I’ll guarantee you that monks never had to referee a toilet flushing argument.
It occurred to me sometime later (once I had managed to shove the pomegranate question aside) that the reasons why I will never distinguish myself in the arts or sciences may not solely be my inability to draw a simple stick figure, or to write anything of real value, or to understand the most basic principles of the math and science behind Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. While these are certainly valid reasons for failure in these and other areas in which monks excelled, they aren’t the only reasons. The monks had something that we don’t. I’m not talking about rope belts and hand-carved crosses here. They had solitude. And not a lot of talking.
I’m not saying that I’m going to run off and take up a life of monkhood (monkery?) or that if I were to do so I would suddenly (think the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz”), discover that I have latent and heretofore unacknowledged Calculus prowess. But, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that there’s someone else out there who is currently having a meaningless conversation about toilet flushing (or the lack thereof) that could, instead, be hard at work constructing, say, a time machine (I think we owe it to the monks to scurry back there and, at the very least, try to talk them out of the tonsure and the brown burlap!).
As for me, I have no intention of taking a vow of silence. (Although I can think of a couple of people and one cat who I would encourage to take up this challenge.) I’m resigned to the reality that I will, more than likely, never accomplish anything that bears mention outside of my immediate family. (Although, if the flushing-challenged progeny does not get her act together, the audience to my crazy may actually come to include viewers of “Snapped!”). Alas, unless the Nobel Prize committee takes complete leave of its senses (stranger things have happened— we all remember the George W. Bush years, don’t we?)and begins to award medals for keeping the domestic peace, I won’t be going to Stockholm any time soon either.