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The Vow of Stability (Stabilitas Loci)

I found this from reading Thomas Merton's _Seven Storey Mountain_ or the autobiography _The seven mountains of Thomas Merton_. For some orders, the vow of stability (stabilitas loci) means, in part, never leaving the walls of the monastery.

Added by colin #442 on 2005-02-27. Last modified 2007-01-05 16:49. Originally created 2005-02-27. F0 License: Attribution
Location: World
Topics: monasticism, spirit

Sometimes, the most radical thing you can do is stay where you are. (A cartoon by Andy Singer)


Stabilitas Loci

I found this from reading Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain or the autobiography The seven mountains of Thomas Merton. For some orders, the vow of stability (stabilitas loci) means, in part, never leaving the walls of the monastery.

The Benedictine monk Benito Jerónimo Feijoo (1676-1764) is another I've read about who managed to stay put.

Horace on Running Across the Sea

From Horace, The Epistles, Book I, epistle XI, line 27:

Caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt.

My own attempt at a literal translation:

The sky, not the mind they change, who run across the sea.

From Epistularum Q. Horatii Flacci, Liber Primus, Epistula XI at U Alabama Huntsville, Society for Ancient Languages:

The Bullatius to whom this epistle is addressed is not otherwise known. He appears to have been for some reason travelling for pleasure in Asia Minor in the same manner as we now visit European cities. Horace takes occasion to express as a contrast to the love of foreign lands his own impatience of the evils of the transit and his preference for home.
    XI. Quid tibi visa Chios, Bullati, notaque Lesbos,
    quid concinna Samos, quid Croesi regia Sardis,
    Smyrna quid et Colophon? Maiora minorane fama?
    Cunctane prae campo et Tiberino flumine sordent?
    An venit in votum Attalicis ex urbibus una?
    An Lebedum laudas odio maris atque viarum?
    Scis Lebedus quid sit; Gabiis desertior atque
    Fidenis vicus: tamen illic vivere vellem,
    oblitusque meorum obliviscendus et illis
    Neptunum procul e terra spectare furentem.
    Sed neque qui Capua Romam petit, imbre lutoque
    adspersus volet in caupona vivere; nec qui
    frigus collegit, furnos et balnea laudat
    ut fortunatam plene praestantia vitam;
    nec, si te validus iactaverit Auster in alto,
    idcirco navem trans Aegaeum mare vendas.
    Incolumi Rhodos et Mitylene pulchra facit, quod
    paenula solstitio, campestre nivalibus auris,
    per brumam Tiberis, Sextili mense caminus.
    Dum licet ac vultum servat Fortuna benignum,
    Romae laudetur Samos et Chios et Rhodos absens.
    Tu quamcumque deus tibi fortunaverit horam
    grata sume manu, neu dulcia differ in annum,
    ut quocumque loco fueris vixisse libenter
    te dicas. Nam si ratio et prudentia curas,
    non locus effusi late maris arbiter aufert,
    caelum, non animum, mutant qui trans mare currunt.
    strenua nos exercet inertia; navibus atque
    quadrigis petimus bene vivere; quod petis, hic est,
    est Vlubris, animus si te non deficit aequus. 
For clarification, see the commentary.

From an english translation of epistle XI by A.S. Kline (the title is Kline’s):

    Be happy wherever you are
    What did you think of Chios, dear Bullatius,
    Or the famous Lesbos? What of beautiful Samos?
    What of Croesus’ royal Sardis, Smyrna and Colophon?
    Better or worse than claimed, are they all worthless, beside
    The Campus and Tiber’s stream? Or are you set on one
    Of Attalus’ cities, or weary of roads and seas praise 
    Lebedus? You know Lebedus: even more empty
    Than Gabii or Fidenae! Still I’d choose to live there,
    Forgetting all my friends, and forgotten by them, 
    Gazing from the shore at distant Neptune’s fury!
    Yet a man heading for Rome from Capua, soaked
    With mud and rain, wouldn’t choose to live in an inn:
    Nor does one who catches a chill praise stove and bath
    As the total answer to living a happy life:
    Nor will you, tossed by a southerly gale on the deep,
    Across the Aegean, sell your ship because of it!
    To a healthy man, Rhodes and beautiful Mytilene
    Are a heavy cloak in summer, a loincloth worn in
    A snowstorm, the wintry Tiber, or an August fire.
    While Fate proves benign, and while you can, from Rome,
    Praise the far-distant, Samos, and Chios, and Rhodes.
    And whatever the hour heaven has blessed you with
    Accept it gratefully, don’t put off what’s sweet to some
    Other year: then wherever you’ve lived, you can say
    You were happy. It’s wisdom, it’s reason, not some place
    Overlooking a breadth of water, that drives out care:
    Those who rush to sea gain a change of sky not themselves.
    Restless idleness occupies us: in yachts and chariots
    We seek the good life. But what you’re seeking is here:
    If your mind’s not lacking in calm, it’s at Ulubrae!

        Ulubrae: A decaying town in the Pomptine 
        marshes where the frogs were very noisy. 
        You would need a calm mind to stand the 
        place! (See Kline for other references.)

Proust on Adventure

Margaret Wright reports: “According to a search of the World Wide Web, by far the most popular quotation from Proust about novelty is:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.” [1]

The source of the quote is chapter two of La prisonnière [2]. It looks to me like the narrator is reminiscing about a concert. Vinteuil is a composer; Elstir, a painter.

. . . art, the art of a Vinteuil like that of an Elstir, makes the man himself apparent, rendering externally visible in the colours of the spectrum that intimate composition of those worlds which we call individual persons and which, without the aid of art, we should never know? A pair of wings, a different respiratory system, which enabled us to traverse through space, would in no way help us. For if we visited Mars or Venus while keeping the same senses, they would clothe in the same aspect as the things of the Earth everything that we should be capable of seeing. The only true voyage, the only Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we can do with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star.
The andante had just ended upon a phrase filled with a tenderness to which I had entirely abandoned myself; there followed, before the next movement, a short interval during which the performers laid down their instruments and the audience exchanged impressions.

Here in French:

. . . l’art, l’art d’un Vinteuil comme celui d’un Elstir, le fait apparaître, extériorisant dans les couleurs du spectre la composition intime de ces mondes que nous appelons les individus, et que sans l’art nous ne connaîtrions jamais ? Des ailes, un autre appareil respiratoire, et qui nous permissent de traverser l’immensité, ne nous serviraient à rien. Car, si nous allions dans Mars et dans Vénus en gardant les mêmes sens, ils revêtiraient du même aspect que les choses de la Terre tout ce que nous pourrions voir. Le seul véritable voyage, le seul bain de Jouvence, ce ne serait pas d’aller vers de nouveaux paysages, mais d’avoir d’autres yeux, de voir l’univers avec les yeux d’un autre, de cent autres, de voir les cent univers que chacun d’eux voit, que chacun d’eux est ; et cela, nous le pouvons avec un Elstir, avec un Vinteuil, avec leurs pareils, nous volons vraiment d’étoiles en étoiles.
L’andante venait de finir sur une phrase remplie d’une tendresse à laquelle je m’étais donné tout entier ; alors il y eut, avant le mouvement suivant, un instant de repos où les exécutants posèrent leurs instruments et les auditeurs échangèrent quelques impressions. [3]

[1] Wright, Margaret H. "What, If Anything Is New in Optimization?"

[2] From The University of Adelaide etext. Sentencing and paragraphing altered a bit. Or on page 291 of volume V of the Chatto and Windus 1992 edition, ISBN 0375753117.

[3] Pages 69-70 of the edition of La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec. See La Prisonnière. Deuxième partie. Sentencing and paragraphing modified to match page 762 of volume III of the 1988 Pléiade / Gallimard edition. Thanks to a search on A9, I was able to find this from page 19 of Proust Among the Stars, by Malcolm Bowie. And the SDSU Library has both the Pléiade edition and Bowie's book. I had only to walk up a flight of stairs to get the books!

Seneca on the Well-Ordered Mind

From Wikiquote.

The primary sign of a well-ordered mind is a man's ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company.

Emerson on Travel

From “Self-Reliance” (1841).

2. It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly hours, we feel that duty is our place. The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet.
I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe, for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.
Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
3. But the rage of travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action. The intellect is vagabond, and our system of education fosters restlessness. Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home. We imitate; and what is imitation but the travelling of the mind? Our houses are built with foreign taste; our shelves are garnished with foreign ornaments; our opinions, our tastes, our faculties, lean, and follow the Past and the Distant. The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished. It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed. And why need we copy the Doric or the Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, and quaint expression are as near to us as to any, and if the American artist will study with hope and love the precise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the habit and form of the government, he will create a house in which all these will find themselves fitted, and taste and sentiment will be satisfied also.

Colin Leath <>    

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