It was a magical night at the local Shambhala Centre in Tantallon, a double headers of great films, the documentary on the life of Thomas Merton and Monks at Bat, a documentary on an annual softball game held in Pleasant Bay Cape Breton every Canada Day weekend between the local fire department and the Buddhist Monks at Gampo Abby. The former delved deeply into the writings, philosophy and austere life of Thomas Merton. Although a Roman Catholic monk living in Kentucky Merton found a following in both the Buddhist movement and the counter-cultural student movement of the time. Merton’s writing were originally intended to be diaries, not for public distribution. But later Merton’s works became the stuff of legend and are still widely read today. As a sidebar I once sat in the Roman Catholic Church in New York City where Merton became a Catholic, his parents were atheists.
After the intensity of Merton came the more fluid and narrative approach of the Pleasant Bay documentary. The serious part was watching two very different cultures become more aware of each other. The less serious part was watching the Buddhist Monks learning to play softball. They were clearly the Washington Generals of this contest.
Interfaith dialogue is often discussed in very serious tones. And that is largely how it serves to be approached. Religion is a serious business and there is a lot on the line for those who give their life for a movement like Christianity and Buddhism. But the playful is not to be overlooked and when cultures collide it is the playful that usually has more lasting effect.
On these most gorgeous late summer days, when the sun is shining and the water sparkles and warmth lingers just a little longer than expected it is good to absorb the communities in our midst who live out their meaning and purpose with a sense of fun and openness to others.
Please enjoy the three parts of Monks at Bat.