But the shot that really got to me was of a little baby nursing. There he or she was, guzzling happily away, and the kid’s face was simply swarming: grotesque clusters of flies had settled in its nose, its ears, its mouth. Its little hand ineffectively tried swatting them away but already you could see the kid was resigned to the lifelong, no doubt constant presence of these unbearably annoying, ruinous, pests.


“I picture the silence of certain souls as being like vast places of refuge. Finding themselves at the end of their rope, wretched sinners enter there gropingly, with their last drop of strength. They can sleep in peace and then leave refreshed and consoled, with no memory of the great invisible temple in which, for a short while, they have laid down their burdens.”


“A particularly severe form of asceticism within Christianity is that of anchorites, who typically allowed themselves to be immured, and subsisting on minimal food. For example, in the 4th century AD, one nun named Alexandra immured herself in a tomb for ten years with a tiny aperture enabling her to receive meager provisions. Saint Jerome (c. 340–420) spoke of one follower who spent his entire life in a cistern, consuming no more than five figs a day.”