Good Habits
The pros and cons of #monkmode.

Issue 51

, Features


Arts & Culture

  • Words Francis Martin

In 1948, the English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor left high-spirited postwar Paris for a Benedictine monastery in Normandy, hoping that a dose of austerity would help him complete his book.1 It did not start well. On the first night, he sat in his cell, drinking what was left of the brandy he’d brought with him, feeling miserable. “I suffered what Pascal declared to be the cause of all human evils,” he wrote, referring to Blaise Pascal’s assertion that our inability to sit still in a room is the cause of humanity’s ills. But after a few days, Fermor found that “in this silent place,” his need for conversation and distraction was fading, and he was left with “nineteen hours a day of absolute and god-like freedom” that he could fill with work.

If Fermor was posting on social media today, he might describe himself as having gone “monk mode”—an online productivity trend in which participants commit to a lifestyle characterized by early mornings; regular exercise; n...

( 1 ) Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck also sought out the tranquility of the Abbey of St. Wandrille. The Nobel Prize–winner rented the monastery after the Benedictine community was temporarily expelled from France. Maeterlinck was blessed by the pope for preventing the monastery being sold and used as a chemical factory, but life there was somewhat less monk-like than in Fermor's time. Maeterlinck's lover, opera singer Georgette Leblanc, dressed up like an abbess and performed on a stage in the refectory with her brother, the novelist Maurice Leblanc (creator of the Arsène Lupin series of novels); Maeterlinck traveled through the monastery on roller skates.

( 2 ) Like many social media personalities, Gadzhi uses his lavish (and occasionally ascetic) lifestyle to promote expensive courses that promise to reveal the secrets to various get-rich-quick schemes. In the past, these have included drop-shipping (being the middleman between buyers and sellers) and affiliate marketing; the current trend is for social media marketing agencies, where hard work is outsourced for a fraction of the cost to developing countries.

( 3 ) The steps to becoming a sister of St. Joseph of Peace include an “Inquiry and Get Acquainted" period of between three months and a year, “Candidacy," where the prospective sister lives in the community for a year, “Novitiate," a two-year period of prayer, where the sister is supported by the community, and “Temporary Profession," which lasts for three to six years, after which sisters make their perpetual profession of vows.

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