It’s So Easy To Criticize

For my friend Emily, and perhaps Jon. Oh, and the rest of us. A story from the 4th Century Desert Fathers.

A certain brother came to Abbot Silvanus at Mount Sinai, and seeing the hermits at work, he exclaimed, “Why do you work for the bread that perishes? We read that Mary chose the better part – namely, to sit at the feet of her Lord.”

Then the abbot said to his disciple Zachary, “Give the brother a book, and put him in an empty cell, and let him read.” At the ninth hour the brother who was reading began to wonder why the abbot had not called him to eat. Sometime later he went directly to the abbot and said, “Did the brethren not eat today, father?”

“Oh yes,” said the abbot. “They have just finished their meal.” “Well,” said the brother, “Why did you not call me?” “Because you are a spiritual man,” answered the abbot. “You do not need the food that perishes. The rest of us have to work. But you have chosen the better part; you have read all day and can surely get along without food.”

I don’t know why. Perhaps it was an attack of acesis—the noonday demon. I sinned and browsed Twitter yesterday afternoon. Almost every post was some sort of opinion based on, well, nothing. The only thing I learned were the prejudices of a large number of people.

It is so easy to criticize. It is so hard to do.

There are actually two better ways. One is to study, learn, contemplate. But that must be balanced by going and doing. These are our spiritual practices.

Nowhere at no time did someone teach that the goal of life is to sit on our ever-expanding, er, posteriors and voice unfounded opinions about other people.

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