Mid life crisis and the skulls of Mt. Athos

mid life crisis

Athos skulls from athosweblog.com

Mid life crisis wants metanoia. Metanoia is Greek for a “change of heart” — a transformation and conversion — and it’s a monastic specialty.

For those just joining in, we are Piedmont Pine Coffins. We advocate natural burial and make pine boxes for it. We take some of our inspiration from the examples of monks and monasteries.

At a monastery, I once read, it’s not the young or the old monks who make confessors bite their nails. No, the novices are eager and hopeful — for metanoia — while the elders are beatific, having gotten over already and ‘metanoi-ed.’

But the middle monks? They’re meta-annoyed. They’re agitated internally. Dying for change. How long is this going to take?

mid life crisis

Athos ossuary from athosweblog.com

Ahh, the mid life crisis. Tired of ourselves — bodies breaking, spirits languishing — we are dying for a transmutation. The good news, I say, is that death will give it you. If you can’t get over during your waking days, just wait. When the Reaper reaches to lead you on, it’ll be quite a conversion. I don’t mean that in a scary way. All positive. Philosopher’s stone, lead to gold.

The magic of the nuns and monks, though, is the promise of not waiting. Convert now. Transform here. Heaven on Earth, so to speak. Their whole modus vivendi is set up to encourage metanoia.

What’s their secret?

Watch the CBS News 60 Minutes visit to the monasteries of Mt. Athos in Greece. You can sometimes catch it on YouTube. In particular, skip three-quarters in to the scene at the ossuary at 12:30. The bones go back to the 16th century. The tour guide monk is joyful to join the skulls of his brothers here one day. For him, his death is a presence and a current consciousness.

The monks’ secret — and not just theirs, it can be yours — is that death awareness is the key to metanoia. In life, bring death to the fore. Monk or not, your mid life crisis will jump out the window and evanesce into the breeze.