Why Asceticism?

What do I need? Enough food, a safe shelter, people with whom to share my life. Asceticism is about claiming the power to refuse where that remains possible.

The etymology has been traced to the 17th century, from Medieval Latin asceticus, from Ancient Greek ἀσκητικός (askētikós), from ἀσκητής (askētḗs, “monk, hermit”), from ἀσκέω (askéō, “I exercise”). So I read here a relation to training, practice, an ongoing effort to deepen devotion and commitment. For me, it ties into the necessity for personal spaciousness.

The ascetic is traditionally a lone practicioner, more closely related with the hermit than the communal monastic (french: cénobite). The ascetic need not preach, or attempt to convert others to their cause.

The definitions of asceticism I've found commonly point towards either a moral practice or an artistic practice. I am more aligned with ascesis as an art. This is not a moral undertaking. Rather, it is a response to global poisoning, and a way to claim personal well-being, individual action, pure negation. Making space for something else.

My nascent asceticism acknowledges that “the world” will not be saved, that no savior exists outside myself, that supply chain collapse is ongoing, that consumption wreaks havoc upon personal autonomy. The practice involves learning to discern need from what, sensing when want is an external imposition, and refusing all that not serve Life.

If, as Mircea Eliade suggests, the sacred is defined spatially, comes into being through delimitation, exists as the exceptional place, then it is a standpoint to adopt, a place from which to survey the wasteland, and a habit to don as sheer refusal. Refusal to engage with the profane, refusal to inhabit the culture that continues to wreak havoc, refusal to consume its commodities. Rare is tuberculosis, yet how many still die consumptive?

Living a sacred life necessarily means acknowledging divinity; not as god-almighty-on-high, merely as that-which-is. For now, suffice to say divinity exists as an experience. The metaphors for its facade are numerous.

The french word acèse, asceticism, abstention. Keep the practice joyful, make room for physical pleasure, sensuousness, salaciousness. Refuse to imbibe the pornographer's easy meals. Refuse the ready-to-think. Reguse the pre-fab desires. Abstain from cherry-picked realms of possibility.