A Spiritual Odyssey
Sonny’s professional life seems to be going well. He has a great podcast with legions of (obnoxiously) adoring fans. He has the proud distinction of being a Rotten Tomatoes critic. He has a column in the Washington Post, and we all know the importance of being one of Jeff Bezos’ vassals once the machines take over. And he works at the Free Beacon, which sounds an awful lot like free bacon which are two of the most beautiful words in the English language. He’s an Acela corridor elite who is frequently seen on the DC cocktail circuit. Of course this chagrins JVL on a couple of levels. First, only the worst people attend DC cocktail parties. But second, he’s able to attend these parties because he has just one child. Thanks for contributing to the coming demographic crisis, Sonny.
On the surface everything seems to be going well. In fact, if you would have told 20 year old Sonny that this was his life he wouldn’t have believed you. But as great as things seem to be, something is clearly missing. There is something deep down that’s bothering him – something that a wife, a daughter, a favela, and a movie collection that rivals any critic’s collection can’t remedy. There is this itch down at the very center of his being that has not been satisfied no matter how many times he has watched Sucker Punch. No amount of donning a shawl-collar cardigan during this interminable (bleep)-ing winter, retreating to his basement favela, pouring a few fingers of Johnny Walker Red, and turning on Zack Snyder’s masterpiece of auteur cinema could satisfy this craving for transcendence that Sonny was seeking.
Had he consulted Vic or JVL, they would have told him what he was missing. As Augustine wrote in Confessions, “our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in [God].” Vic or JVL would have suggested inviting the pope into your heart, or whatever it is that Romanists are into. Or perhaps fomenting socialist revolutions in Latin America. I can’t keep track of what’s going on in that church.
But on a particularly dreary Saturday night in April Sonny was going for the trifecta – the trifecta being buttoning up a shawl collar cardigan, sipping Johnny Walker Red, and turning on a Zack Snyder flick. He sat in his favela hoping to satisfy that deep human impulse for meaning when he had an epiphany. Transcendence isn’t found through embracing the sartorial sensibilities of an unemployed community college professor or through entry level scotch or even through the directorial aesthetic of Shadows and Darkness. His epiphany caused him to stumble up the stairs leaving Sucker Punch running on the big screen. He grabbed his keys and ran to his car.
With the turn of the key the engine leapt to life, and his car raced into the night – a night made even darker by the intense thunderstorm which so often accompanies metaphysical crises like this. He sped down the surprisingly unclogged roads of Northern Virginia with the single-minded purpose of a religious zealot. He sped through the night with nothing on the radio to distract him from his new purpose. After about thirty minutes of driving he pulled onto a quiet street where he parked his car. On one side of the street was an inconspicuous row of townhomes. On the other side was a tall brick wall flanking what appeared to be a large compound of some sort. He ran to the wooden gate and pounded on it with the ferocity of a man who now had purpose in his life. Rain had soaked his clothing thoroughly. His glasses were foggy and he was chilled to the bone, but he was undeterred. Finally, a small slit opened in the gate and a voice called out, “Who goes there?” “I’m Sonny Bunch, and I’ve come to learn your ways,” replied Sonny. “Sonny Bunch? What kind of name is that?” replied the voice. “Are we really going to do this?” Sonny retorted. “My apologies, you may enter,” said the mysterious voice.
The gate opened, and Sonny passed through, entering a compact cobblestone courtyard. “Come, you must be cold. Come in,” said the figure who appeared to be dressed as a Buddhist monk.
Just a few minutes later Sonny found himself sitting in front of a crackling fire with towels wrapped around him and a cup of hot tea in his hands. The mysterious figure said, “Our morning session starts at 5:00 AM.” Sonny looked this figure up and down. This was the first good look Sonny got of this man. He had the posture of royalty but the practiced humility of a simple, wise man. Sonny replied, “5 (bleep)-ing AM? You’ve gotta be kidding.”
For the next two months Sonny lived a rigid, rigorous monastic life. He woke early to pray. He tended the garden in the cool mornings and learned to sew robes in the afternoon. During these times of solitude he would repeat the wisdom of the person who appeared to be the head monk:
All is temporary. Embrace the eternal.
Pain is distraction from your lesser self.
The narrow path is the one filled with obstacles. Run not from adversity.
If food trucks were any good, they would have thousands of locations. But they don’t because they’re trash.
The rhythm of life must not be distracted with the pleasures of the flesh.
Strive for simplicity. The path is clear for those who have renewed minds.
After two months of faithfully observing the practices of the monks Sonny mustered the courage to ask, “When can I–?” but he was cut off by the Master. “You’re not ready yet. You have much to learn, young Sonny.”
Sonny replied, “(Bleep) this. I’ll just buy my own cedar shoe trees and watch an instructional video on YouTube.” I’m out of PTO, and I’m not losing my job just to learn how to polish some (bleep)-ing shoes. And I’m taking this robe with me. I made it, and it’s mine now. Sonny turned and proudly strutted out of the monastery feeling like a new man. The Master grinned and said to himself, “I knew you were ready.”