Divergent Interpretations of the Same Statistics: Differing Suggestions from Christianity and Sociology

Statistics often present a sobering mirror of our society and the problems that people face. A friend of mine recently sent me an interesting New York Times article by Ross Douthat entitled, “All the Lonely People.”  Douthat notes that since 2000, the suicide rate among men aged 35-54 in the United States has increased 30% while the rate for men in their 50’s increased 50%.  This is indeed a disturbing trend.  Douthat cites University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox who perceives a link between the rise in suicides and weakened social ties as well as economic difficulties. While … [Read more...]

Loneliness and Monasticism: Incompatible Concepts

Monks, as the name suggests, are solitary sorts who enjoy keeping to themselves. And yet, I think it is safe to say that monks do not suffer extensively from loneliness.  Still, it is not unusual for monks, especially hermits, to be asked if they are lonely. It would appear to be a perfectly natural question from outside of monasticism, but within the cloister walls it sounds strange indeed. When Saint Herman of Alaska was asked if he felt lonely on Spruce Island, he replied, “No, I am not alone there. God is there, as God is everywhere.” His answer suggests not only a qualitative difference … [Read more...]

Monasticism and Mental Health

Orthodox monasticism is an exceptional way of life that requires exceptional resources of the mind and spirit. Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea and revealer of heavenly mysteries, set forth teachings on Orthodox monasticism that have defined it to this day. In his Discourse on Renunciation, he relates "Many come to the virtuous life [meaning monasticism], but few are able to take on that yoke. The Gospel declares, 'The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.' It calls those disciples of Christ to voluntarily endure corporal weariness by the denial … [Read more...]