Within walking distance from the Erdene Zuu Monastery is the Kharkhorin Rock, a.k.a. the Phallic Rock. It is a 24-inch long penis raised on a concrete platform on the steppe. The question of course is: Why would anyone erect a penis just outside a Buddhist monastery? The answer comes in the form of a legend. Rumor has it that a long time ago, a monk broke his vow of celibacy with local women. The naughty monk became some sort of Mongolian Priapus who put little effort into hiding his philandering. As a consequence and to make an example of the monk, the elders castrated him to remind the monks of their vows of celibacy. And just in case the monks at the monastery failed to read the snip-snip memo, a rock in the shape of a penis was prominently engraved as a stone phallus; a reminder that they should keep things tucked under the monastic robe. No hall passes.
Mooggie, being the gentleman he is, chose not to tell me the sordid version of the penis. He favored the more mystical reason for its existence: a superstition that has to do with valleys, the mount of venus, and babies. He had me at valley. According to Mooggie, the penis points erotically to a small valley in the shape of a woman's parts. Barren women straddle the penis facing the "V-Slope," leave offerings in a little receptacle strategically located under the head of the phallus, place blue scarves on the shrine, et voila. Nine months later, they give birth to a beautiful baby.
This is how Mooggie explained it to me:
When I first visited Paisley Abbey, an old Benedictine monk told me that mass was about to start and that if I wanted to see inside, I'd have to come back after the service. He had on the long, loose, black robe of his order covering the wrists, the ankles and the back of his wrinkled neck. A black cincture barely made it around his round waist, and over the tunic and the cincture, he wore a black scapular. His tonsure (the shaved part of the head) was completed with a round band of fine white hair around his head. I couldn't help but think of Sean Connery and the mysterious monks in the movie "The Name of the Rose."
I wanted to tell the monk that this place was mine, it had waited for me for almost a thousand years and that since I had flown all the way from Florida (via Turkmenistan) for our reunion, I felt a tad entitled to it, it kind of made me a little bit Scottish. Ok, 99.9% Colombian and the rest Scottish and here is why:
1. The Abbey was built in the 6th century.
2. William Wallace (not Mel Gibson) was educated here.
3. A fire destroyed it in 1307.
4. Its restoration took at least fifty years.
5. King Robert II of Scotland was born here; his wives and those of King Robert III are buried here.
6. The Abbey’s central tower collapsed in the 16th century and neither the choir nor the transepts were restored until the 19th and 20th century.
Within its walls were sad monks, burials, self-flagellation sessions in spartan little cells, celestial music, sin, faith, tears and redemption.
See? That’s why I claim ownership over the abbey. It is mine because it has survived for 16 centuries, because its pillars, solid with memories, held it together in one piece for me to walk in, for me to see, for me to be drowned in its silent stained windows.
When I went back to the Abbey, the monk had stepped out of his clerical clothing. He had on a pair of black Levi's Jeans, running shoes (Adidas) and an over-sized fleece hoodie that made him look like a monk in full mid-life crisis. He nearly killed my evocation of Sean Connery and those naughty, naughty monks in the movie, including Salvatore, the terrifying hunchback monk played by Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy).
I tried not to look at him as I entered the abbey and reclaimed it.
It was all mine.
For about 20 minutes.
And there was of course the tree.
just outside the abbey,
and the present.