Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mt. Athos on my Birthday

OK, I have 5 and a half years to get this done. I'd like to spend my 60th birthday, December 2, 2016 in Greece, among the monasteries of Mt. Athos. I knew a bit about this monastic settlement before last Sunday night's profile on '60 minutes'. This is the seat of the Orthodox faith going back to the time of Christ. There are 20+ monasteries on this island in the north of Greece. Monasteries, monks and not much else. There are Greek monasteries, Russian monasteries, Serbian monasteries, there are even a few Americans among the priests and brothers. It is a life of ceaseless prayer and work every day of the year. And once you are admitted it is expected you will never leave the island.

If the TV cameras don't lie, why would anyone leave such a paradise? The Aegean, the mountains, the cliffs, the sea-it does look like heaven. I suspect the ceaseless work and prayer can be a trial. This life is clearly not for the feint of body or heart. Eight hours at a clip of chanting the liturgy-in Greek yet and no women. Did I mention that no women are allowed anywhere on the island? As one news reporter-the first admitted in over thirty years -said, "A week is a long time without women!"

I used to read a lot May Sarton's works. She climbed the Parthenon on her 50th birthday, in 1962. A friend of mine went to Bayreuth to see the Ring for his 50th birthday. I doubt I'll ever climb the Appalachian Trail, or write a great novel, but Mt. Athos and the endless civilisation there is calling my name. See you in just over five years!

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