The Monk

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Exposed to the elements, stoic monks teach us ways to live and die.

Circa 1968, my philosophical college associates and I quipped, satirically shedding trappings of our suburban upbringing, that when we died, we would like for our carcasses to be thrown in an outside trash can for disposal. Looking back, there may be hidden irony in our joke: half-educated white boys resigning themselves, even seeking, to be dispatched by Memphis garbage collectors.

Nothing clears the head like big outdoors. I should have recognized that earlier from my childhood, when I spent most of my free time in wide-open spaces.

Every single day, my brain is cleansed and my thoughts refreshed by dreamy sleep and exposure to a pastoral setting under huge skies where fields, trees, and hills stretch to the horizon. The out of doors purifies and restores: it is a more effective eraser than drugs and drink; it is a better muse and memory supplement, too.

I suppose the impact of taking to the streets of downtown Memphis in the mid-1970s offered a similar benefit. Like a modern-day monk of Tennessee, one could unburden one’s soul in the big outdoors of a struggling city by a river, while afloat, alone, alongside an occasional familiar and the drift of harmless strangers.

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