I’m still hoping to add a new page to my weblog describing a few of the highlights of our trip to Mount Athos. God willing, that will happen in the next few weeks. In the meantime, one quick anecdote that may interest and amuse you.
As coincidence or Providence would have it, the morning of our departure for the Mountain my son and I were sitting having breakfast in the lobby of our hotel in Ouranoupolis when in walk Vincent Rossi (my colleague from Rose Hill days) and a friend. They had apparently come to the village to interview someone associated with its historic Byzantine tower. During the course of our short conversation, I mentioned being somewhat bemused by the fact that the ancient Athonite monasteries now have fax machines. “Fax machines?” Vincent’s friend replied. “That’s nothing. I correspond by email with a monk in one of the sketes who uploads things to the internet on his solar-powered laptop!”
Three days later my son and I headed to the capital, Karyes, to get our diamonitiria extended from the standard four days to a week. At one point I left him with our backpacks so I could walk around a little and look at some icons in one of the shops near the Protaton. When I returned he was engrossed in conversation with a monk, who—out of the two or three thousand Athonite possibilities!—turned out to be none other than this very same Father Solar-Power. My son had apparently not yet mentioned our surname, so when I introduced myself the monk’s eyes widened and then immediately narrowed, and here’s the response I got: “You’re James Cutsinger? You’re that crazy, mixed-up Sufi!” Somewhat taken aback I had the presence of mind to reply, “On what authority do you say that?” To which he responded, “By my own authority!” To which I replied, “On what grounds?” At this point, he faked a flurry of punches to my jaw, and simply said, “GRRR!”
I confess I’m still not clear, even after a few more minutes of rather tense and awkward conversation, what he had in mind, though putting two and two together I suspect he must have been browsing the web and seen the piece on “Hesychia” I wrote for the Paths to the Heart book. I had fully intended to keep my “perennialism” to myself on the Mountain, not realizing I would be dealing with such highly “wired” monks!