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WHAT IS THE "GIVENNESS" OF YOUR LIFE?

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a givenness to for whom the bell tolls

What do I have a GIVENNESS NOW to?

For whom the bell tolls.



"Time is a gift.

When T.S. Eliot says, “Time, not our time,” he is pointing out that there needs to be a certain detachment from time, a certain monasticism in our lives.”


In monasteries, life is regulated by a bell.  Monks and nuns know that time is not their own, that when the bell rings they must drop what they are doing and move on to what is being asked of them next.

When the bell rings, St. Benedict said, the monk must put down his pen without crossing his “t” or dotting his “i.”

He must move on, not necessarily because he feels like doing something else, not necessarily because he feels like doing something else, but because it is time - time to eat, or pray, or work, or study, or sleep.  Monks’s lives are regulated by a bell, not because they do not have watches or alarm clocks, but to remind them, always, that time is not their own and that there is a proper time to do things.  Monks do not get to sleep, eat, pray, work or relax when they feel like it, but when it is time to do those things.


There is an astonishing parallel between that and what happens in our own lives and we can be helped by understanding it.  There is an inbuilt monasticism to our lives.  We too, at least for the more active years, are called to practice a certain asceticism regarding time - to have our lives regulated by “the bell.”

In our case “the bell” takes a different form, though its demands are the same as those of the bell in a monastery.  In our case the bell is an alarm clock and dictates of our daily lives:  a quick breakfast, a commute to work (carrying sandwiches for lunch), staying home with small children, demands at work or at home, driving kids for lessons, dealing with them with their demands, household chores, cooking, laundry, taking out garbage, calling in a plumber, church on Sundays.  Like monks, we sleep, rise, eat, pray and work, not necessarily when we would like to but when it is time.


During all of the most active years of our lives we are reminded daily, sometimes hourly, that time is not our own; we are monks practicing a demanding asceticism.

There will not always be time to smell the flowers and we are not always poorer for that fact.

Most important of all, recognizing in our duties and pressures the sound of the monastic bell actually helps us to smell the flowers, to give to each instant of our lives the time it deserves - and not necessarily the time I feel like giving it.  We are better for the demands that the duties of state put on us, despite the constant fatigue.  Conversely, the privileged who have all the time in the world are worse off for that, despite their constant opportunity to smell the flowers.

Monks have secrets worth knowing - and the pedagogy of a monastic bell is one of them.”  Richard Rolheiser, Forgotten Among the Lilies











The pedagogy of a monastic bell?


…time, not my time.




For whom does the bell toll?


…it tolls for me.








I put down my pen without crossing my “t” or dotting my “i.”

I have a GIVENNESS NOW for whom the bell tolls.

Filed under for whom bell tolls July 2011

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