Last Word: The Paradise Part

The Right to Be Silent, or Not

“Sit in your cell as in paradise,” begins St. Romuald’s Brief Rule, an eleventh-century text that guides the life of monks in the Camaldolese order. When you’re two miles up a winding road above the cliffs of Big Sur, with waves crashing inaudibly in the mist below, imagining yourself in paradise isn’t hard.

But I suppose it depends on what you mean by paradise. St. Romuald probably didn’t have in mind a sunny, sandy beach with lobster to eat and...

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