Now, however, we happily have a very useful and edifying attempt to link the wisdom of desert monasticism to the world of our own day in a way that does not require all of us to flee to real deserts or try to climb atop a stylus somewhere. That book is A Layman in the Desert: Monastic Wisdom for a Life in the World (SVS Press, 2015; 201pp.) by Daniel Opperwall, whom I asked for an interview. Here are his thoughts.
AD: Tell us about your background
AD: What led to the writing of this book, A Layman in the Desert: Monastic Wisdom for a Life in the World, in particular?
But still, there is a difference here. The ancient hermits were trying to get away from the world as much as they could. Yet, they came to tremendous wisdom about God and human beings--wisdom that applies to everyone no matter what their situation. Layman is precisely about getting at that insight--that wisdom--and developing a theory of how to bring it back into our lives in the world. I hope that task seems a bit less paradoxical in light of the book, and I hope this is far from the last word we see on it.
AD: Your Athonite interlocutor, quoted in your preface, notes that a “monastery” is simply a place where people help one another unto salvation—just as a family does together. But why do you think that many people either fail to realize that, or otherwise assume that a family is a “lesser” calling?
I haven't settled on a next book, but I am thinking very seriously about writing one on the Rule of St Benedict that would be in a similar vein to A Layman in the Desert. I'd like to explore how the Rule can be conceptually translated to help inform life in a family home rather than a monastery. My spiritual father is a Benedictine monk (yes there are Orthodox Benedictine monks!), and St Benedict drew a lot from St John Cassian, so it would be a natural next step.