Daily Riches: The ‘Unquiet Universal Trance’ (Thomas Merton and the Kinks)

“Nine tenths of the news, as printed in the papers, is pseudo-news, manufactured events. Some days ten tenths. The ritual morning trance, in which one scans columns of newsprint, creates a peculiar form of generalized pseudo-attention to a pseudo-reality. This experience is taken seriously. It is one’s daily immersion in ‘reality.’ One’s orientation to the rest of the world. One’s way of reassuring himself that he has not fallen behind. …My own experience has been that renunciation of this self-hypnosis, of this participation in the unquiet universal trance, is no sacrifice to reality at all. To ‘fall behind’ in this sense is to get out of the big cloud of dust that everybody is kicking up, to breathe and to see a little more clearly.Certainly I do not pretend that by simply refusing to keep up with the latest news I am therefore unaffected by what goes on, or free of it all. Certainly events happen and they affect me as they do other people. It is important for me to know about them too: but I refrain from trying to know them in their fresh condition as ‘news.’ When they reach me they have become slightly stale. I eat the same tragedies as others, but in the form of tasteless crusts. The news reaches me in the long run through books and magazines, and no longer as a stimulant. Living without news is like living without cigarettes (another peculiarity of the monastic life). The need for this habitual indulgence quickly disappears. So, when you hear news without the ‘need’ to hear it, it treats you differently. And you treat it differently too.” Thomas Merton

“See that fella, looking all spick and span,
Is he a tailor’s dummy or is he a real man?
Is he genuine,
or straight off the assembly line?”
“Unreal Reality”, the Kinks

“And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
Romans 12:2

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you been duped by “pseudo-news and manufactured events?” by “unreal reality?”
  • Could you benefit by waiting to digest the news as “stale crusts?” How might you “treat it differently?”
  • What can you do to “get out of the big cloud of dust that everybody is kicking up … to see a little more clearly?”

Abba, deliver me from unreality.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

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