“I know from my own experience that in the last twenty years, the world has moved a very long way towards conformism and passivity. So long a way that the distance is, to me, both frightening and disconcerting. I have been all the more sensitive to it because I have spent this time in the isolation of a contemplative monastery, and have only recently come back into contact … with the America which I used to know as a rather articulate, critical and vociferously independent place. It is certainly not so any more. Not that the people do not complain and criticize, but their complaints and criticisms, indeed their most serious concerns, seem to be involved in trivialities and illusions–against a horrifying background of impending cosmic disaster. It seems to be that for all our pride in our freedom and individuality we have complete renounced thinking for ourselves. What passes for ‘thinking’ is mass-produced, passively accepted, or not even accepted. We simply submit to the process of being informed, without anything actually registering on our mind at all. …If we stop to think about what [Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago] says, we will realize that if Pasternak is ever fully studied, he is just as likely to be regarded as a dangerous writer in the West as he is in the East. He is saying that political and social structures as we understand them are things of the past, and that the crisis through which we are now passing is nothing but the full and inescapable manifestation of their falsity. For twenty centuries we have called ourselves Christians, without even beginning to understand one tenth of the Gospel. We have been taking Caesar for God and God for Caesar. Now that ‘charity is growing cold’ and we stand facing the smoky dawn of an apocalyptic era, Pasternak reminds us that there is only one source of truth, but that it is not sufficient to know the source is there—we must go and drink from it, as he has done.” Thomas Merton (1959)
“Sin will be rampant everywhere,
and the love of many will grow cold.”
Jesus in Matthew 24:12
Moving From Head to Heart
- People on both the political “left” and “right” believe they are “thinking for themselves”–and consider others misguided–as passively repeating mere slogans. Do you have a practice that forces you to critique your assumptions?
- If politics as we know it is a “thing of the past”, and we’re facing “an apocalyptic era”, where do we turn?
- One thing surely–we must turn to “love”–but not merely as a concept or belief, but as what we “drink”–moving beyond that “one tenth of the gospel.” What might this mean for you?
For More: Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton
Thanks for reading! – Bill
“Paul’s view of the ‘elements’ and the ‘powers of the air’ was couched in the language of the cosmology of his day. Translated into the language of our own time, I would say these mysterious realities are to be sought where we least expect them, not in what is remote and mysterious, but in what is most familiar, what is near at hand, what is at our elbow all day long – what speaks or sings in our ear, and practically does our thinking for us. The ‘powers’ and ‘elements’ are precisely what stand between the world and Christ. It is they who stand in the way of reconciliation. It is they who, by influencing all our thinking and behavior in so many unsuspected ways, dispose us to decide for the world as against Christ, thus making reconciliation impossible. Clearly the ‘powers’ and the ‘elements,’ which in Paul’s day dominated men’s minds through pagan religion or through religious legalism, today dominate us in the confusion and the ambiguity of the Babel of tongues that we call mass-society. Certainly I do not condemn everything in the mass-media. But how does one stop to separate the truth from the half-truth, the event from the pseudo-event, reality from the manufactured image? It is in this confusion of images and myths, superstitions and ideologies that the ‘powers of the air’ govern our thinking – even our thinking about religion! Where there is no critical perspective, no detached observation, no time to ask the pertinent questions, how can one avoid being deluded and confused?” Thomas Merton
“…a mighty windstorm hit the mountain.
It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose,
but the Lord was not in the wind.”
1 Kings 19:11
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you so immersed in media that it “practically does your thinking for you?”
- Do you often ask yourself whether something is a truth or half-truth, an event or a “pseudo-event” – whether what you see is reality or a “manufactured image?”
- Do you have a regular set of practices that help you avoid being “deluded and confused” by today’s Babel of tongues?
Abba, with your help I will refuse to be hurried and pressed, I will stay my soul on you. May nothing keep me from clearness of spirit which is life and peace. (adapted from Amy Carmichael)
For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton
“Daily Riches” is for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. 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.”