From “The Monk Manifesto,” by Christine Valters Paintner

“I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.”


Just such a friend, mentor, and guide just sent me this manifesto the other day. “I’m sending you something by email,” she texted. Moments later came the email, entitled “Add to your reading list.”

The friend and guide is one of the oldest tropes in our tradition. From the classical notion of “one soul living in two bodies” to Yoda, philosophy and mythical archetypes have long reserved a special role for the kindred spirit who shows the way.

In The Lord of the Rings, the elvish queen Galadriel takes a turn on stage as friend and guide to the Fellowship of the Ring. And, when the hobbits journey onward from Lothlorien, she sends with them slices of lembas, the magical elvish bread that can provide a day’s sustenance from a the smallest nibble.

All the metaphors in this excerpt imply journey and motion save one: cultivating. Somehow, in the midst of all of life’s constant motion, we are challenged to slow down and cultivate.

It’s hard to find the time. Of course it is. But friendships are the source of lembas in life: a little cultivation, a small taste here and there, can sustain us through the gravest difficulties.

So I encourage you to add this to your reading list, too. And I offer thanks for the friend who cared enough to send it to me.