By David Torkington
When I first decided to spend my life searching for God I visited the great Carthusian monastery, St Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster in Sussex with the intention of living the enclosed eremitical life. I was deeply impressed and I immediately came to the conclusion that it was here that I would like to spend the rest of my life. That is until I had a long talk with the monk who had shown me around. It was obvious that he was deeply happy in his chosen vocation despite long periods of spiritual darkness when the light of God’s love highlighted the sinfulness that kept him out. However, this did not deter me, for I had long since understood that before union with God could begin, it would have to be preceded by an inner purification, and I was eager for this purification to take place so that my deepest heart’s desire could be fulfilled.
Drawbacks to Eremitical Life
What did eventually put me off was the monk’s frank admission of what happened in, or rather after experiencing moments of ecstatic bliss, when he experienced the presence of God penetrating him from within. His all but uncontrollable joy was only the half of it, for after moments of mystical ‘at-one-ment’ he would be filled with wisdom too, with a spiritual understanding and insight into his faith that he had never experienced before. However, what had initially given him so much pleasure was counterbalanced by feelings of deep sadness. The problem was that he had no one with whom to share his joy and the mystical knowledge that he had never understood before. What he wanted to do was to shout it from the rooftops, but all had to be contained within him for nothing could be shared with others, at least in the way that he would have wished.
Despite everything else that attracted me to the Carthusian way of life, it was this admission that decided me. I was a communicator by both inclination and profession and it was my greatest pleasure to communicate what I had learnt to others.
I Do Be Digging
Some years ago I had dinner with friends in London. When I was leaving their home I was introduced to the husband’s father, who was busy digging in the garden. Taken by surprise and not knowing what to say I asked a rather stupid question, ‘And what are you doing’? I said. ‘I do be digging the garden’, he replied, glancing at his son as if to say, ‘Who’s your fatuous friend’? Intrigued by his answer I asked a nun who taught Irish in Dublin what was meant by the expression, ‘I do be digging the garden’. She said that it is the English rendering of what is called in Irish, the present continuing tense. It means, ‘I have been digging the garden, I am digging the garden and when you stop asking the obvious, I will continue to dig the garden!’