I’ve been busy recently, so this is only a quick pointer to Extreme Pilgrim which has its third and final episode available on the iPlayer till Thursday evening — if you live in the UK. This episode was about Coptic Christianity and especially Saint Anthony who created the first monastery.
After the first half of episode one I’ve been getting more impressed with the series. To begin with Peter Owen-Jones gave the impression of looking for a superficial quick fix to a spiritual malaise. The second episode had him work as a Saddhu, a Hindu holy man. His struggle to try and work out what the hell he was supposed to be doing could have been a really awful attempt at comedy. Thankfully he seemed better prepared to get into the spirit of task and genuinely cared about his relationship with the village where his cave was.
For episode three, he thought he had his strongest challenge. He went to live with a hermit in the cliff caves overlooking the Monastery of Saint Anthony in Egypt. There are problems living as a hermit, when you’re hermiting with someone else and a camera crew. Fr. Lazarus, his host offered him his cave where he goes when he feels like a hermit holiday. The film crew leave Pete with a camcorder to keep a diary and then withdraw to film him occasionally through a telephoto lens for three weeks.
I’m not sure this episode worked so well. The previous two episodes had him working within a faith which was alien to him. So he was trying to make sense of the faith and its relationship to the physical exercises he was doing. For this episode he’s with Christians and rather than trying to understand I get the impressions that so much of the familiarity meant he was accepting assumptions rather than thinking hard about them as he had before.
Nonetheless it’s not a bad episode. If you live outside the UK you can see some of it on YouTube. This clip needs a bit of set up. He’s visited Fr. Lazarus who’s given him a cave. Fr. Lazarus is concerned because he thinks Pete Owen-Jones could be literally in for a hellish time. The Bishop of the Monastery considers the cliffs too dangerous for his own monks. Fr. Lazarus has seen many prospective hermits driven from the rocks. He warns his guest the devil is in the cliffs and he will challenge Pete. Lazarus promises to look in on him from time to time, but they are separated by quite a distance. In an emergency all Pete has is himself and his camcorder.
Embedding is disabled, so you’ll have to watch the clip at YouTube.