Each year in Brittany the church holds an ecclesiastical home coming during which they open the doors to the monasteries and abbeys. Visitors can meet the monks and speak with them. If they have taken a vow of silence one can only smile and nod.
Last year I visited L'abbaye de la Meilleraie. Surrounded by forests, lakes ponds and orchards, one is moved by how much the holy church accomplished by faith without the modern tools of bonusing and amenity contributions.
In spite of the beauty of the setting, the church can not recruit enough monks. At one time this monastery housed several hundred servants of God. Now they are down to twelve.
Whatever the reason for this it seems unlikely that it has anything to do with the size of their apartments. A 250 square foot room provides more than enough space for prayer, liturgical texts and a bunk. Since they have community toilets that leaves extra space to store jams,marmalades and other organic products of their toils.
Meanwhile, the secular authorities in
New York City under Mayor Bloomberg are optimistic that they will not have a problem selling out a building with tiny one room apartments in a crummy part of town. (See
How Small Is Too Small? An Apartment Story-National Wire )
At first glance this would seem a paradox. How can it be that in New York or Vancouver, where we have already done the same thing, developers could sell out 250 square foot dwelling units whose tenants may end up comprising the strata council from hell, but in Brittany they can not fill units, the walls of which are four feet thick, and are managed by a brotherhood of Gregorian chanting, marmalade making men of God?
If you believe that sustainability is to environmentalism what Saint Thomas Aquinas is to Catholicism and if you believe that the market for smaller units is consistent with a love of nature and the entire universe, you are a truly good person to be admired for the purity of your soul and your love of humanity.
You are also wrong.
If on the other hand you believe that there has always been big money in cheap housing as is demonstrated daily by the successful slumlords from DTES Vancouver to Calcutta, you are a cynic, a denier and a skeptic.
Nevertheless, you are probably right.