With the progress made to communication technologies, the abbey has been forced to make decisions regarding what sorts of technology are allowed inside. As one member puts it, “the monastery is a controlled environment” and the abbott must reconcile with whether or not the particular technology will benefit the values of monastic life which include contemplation, solitude, and quiet. Furthermore, books are regulated to uphold values of monastic life, as well. The monks decide which books will enter the community and which will not.
With the monks’ ability to access the internet for up to one hour per day (with site restrictions), it can seem to some as a distraction from contemplative life, manipulating the valuable time in a monk’s day. Some monks use the internet for research in particular interests; for one member, literature and philosophy are topics he researches when utilizing his time on the computer. He also runs the Monks’ Bread site and spends his internet time running the online store.
While the internet is a newer facet to monastic life at the Abbey of the Genesee, the monastery’s library remains an ultimate source of exchange with the outside world. The library contains “about 30,000 volumes, and current books coming in all the time,” says one monk. The Library Committee selects new books to accept into the abbey and the abbott makes the final decision on them. Although there is a heavy focus on theology, but there are also a wealth of books in the history and literature sections. While on a tour of the bakery, one of the monks had even mentioned to us about an interesting biology book he had read about the science of cancers.
“A Controlled Environment”
The monastery as a controlled environment is a very precise way of describing the Abbey of the Genesee. Daily routines, for the most part, are intended to be constant, equal, and uninterrupted by outside forces. It seems that some members are cognizant of the interruptions that are posed to monastic life by the inclusion of a range of technologies into daily routines. Still, some members seem to prefer reading books, as is traditionally and historically practiced in the brotherhood.
The video below is a compilation of interviews in which monks are asked how technology is currently used at the abbey and about how the entry of outside information is regulated. For site visitors with hearing disabilities, please feel free to utilize the closed captioning option on the YouTube bar.