Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thomas Merton

"The one who has attained final integration is no longer limited by the culture in which he has grown up. 'He has embraced all of life.' He passes beyond all these limiting forms, while retaining all that is best and most universal in them, finally giving birth to a fully comprehensive self. He accepts not only his own community, his own society, his own friends, his own culture, but all humanity. He does not remain bound to one limited set of values in such a way that he opposes them aggressively or defensively to others. He is fully 'Catholic' in the best sense of the word. He has a unified vision and experience of the one truth shining out in all its various manifestations, some clearer than others, some more definite and more certain than others. He does not set these partial views up in opposition to each other, but unifies them in a dialectic or an insight of complementarity. With this view of life he is able to bring perspective, liberty and spontaneity into the lives of others. The finally integrated person is a peacemaker, and that is why there is such a desperate need for our leaders to become such persons of insight."

"...Whereas final integration was, in the past the privilege of a few, it is now becoming a need and aspiration of humanity as a whole. The whole world is in an existential crisis to which there are various reactions, some of them negative, tragic, destructive, demonic, others proffering a human hope that is yet not fully clear."

"'Secular' society is by its nature committed to what Pascal calls "diversion", that is, to movement which has, before all else, the anaesthetic function of quieting our anguish. All society, without exception, tends to be in some respect 'secular'. But a genuinely secular society is one which cannot be content with innocent escapes from itself. More and more it tends to need and to demand, with insatiable dependence, satisfaction in pursuits that are unjust, evil, or even criminal. Hence the growth of economically useless businesses that exist for profit and not for real production, that create artificial needs which they fill with cheap and quickly exhausted products. Hence the wars that arise when producers compete for markets and sources of raw material. Hence the nihilism, despair and destructive anarchy that follows war and then the blind rush into totalitarianism as an escape from despair.

In the sacred society, on the other hand, the person admits no dependence on anything lower than himself, or even outside himself in a spatial sense. His only Master is God. Only when God is our Master can we be free, for God is within ourselves as well as above ourselves. He rules us by liberating us from our dependence on created things outside us. We use and dominate them, so that they exist for our sakes, and not we for theirs. There is no purely sacred society except in heaven.

This change of perspective is impossible as long as we are afraid of our own nothingness, as long as we are afraid of fear, afraid of poverty, afraid of boredom - as long as we run away from ourselves. What we need is the gift of God which make us able to find in ourselves not just ourselves but Him: and then our nothingness becomes His all. This is not possible without the liberation effected by compunction and humility. It requires not talent, not mere insight, but sorrow, pouring itself out in love and trust."

Thomas Merton

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