Thoughts from Thomas Merton

This due rocks. I bought this book called, No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton and he basically rocked my socks off by page 2. I just read something on the pot (not the herb, the defecator) and thought to share. It's the first entry from Chapter 3 Enjoy

"Conscience, Freedom, and Prayer

1) To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell. Selfishness is doomed to frustration, centered as it is upon a lie. To live exclusively for myself, I must make all things bend themselves to my will as if I were a god. But this is impossible. Is there any more cogent indication of my creaturehood than the insufficiency of my own will? For I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me. When I give it pleasure, it deceives my expectation and makes me suffer pain. When I what I conceive to be freedom, I deceive myself and find that I am the prisoner of my own blindness and selfishness and insufficiency.

It is true, the freedom of my will is a great thing. But this freedom is not absolute self-sufficiency. If the essence of freedom were merely the act of choice, then the mere fact of making choices would perfect our freedom. But there are two difficulties here. FIrst of all, our choices must really be free - that is to say they must perfect us in our own being. They must perfect us in our relation to other free beings. We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves. From this flows the second difficulty: we too easily assume that we are our real selves, and that our choices are really the ones we want to make when, in fact, our acts of free choice are (though morally imputable, no doubt) largely dictated by psychological compulsions, flowing from our inordinate ideas of our own importance. Our choices are too often dictated by our false selves.

Hence I do not find in myself the power to be happy merely by doing what I like. On the contrary, if I do nothing except what pleases my own fancy I will be miserable almost all the time. This would never be so if my will had not been created to use its own freedom in the love of others.

My free will consolidates and perfects its own autonomy by freely co-ordinating its action with the will of another. There is something in the very nature of my freedom that inclines me to love, to do good, to dedicate myself to others. I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself alone. The reason for this is that I cannot be completely independent. Since I am not self-sufficient I depend on someone else for my fulfillment. My freedom is not fully free when left to itself. It becomes so when it is brought into the right relation with the freedom of another.

At the same time, my instinct to be independent is by no means evil. My freedom is not perfected by subjection to a tyrant. Subjection is not an end in itself. It is right that my nature should rebel against subjection. Why should my will have been created free, if I were never to use my freedom?

If my will is meant to perfect its freedom in serving another will, that does not mean it will find its perfection in serving every other will. In fact, there is only one will in whose service I can find perfection and freedom. To give my freedom blindly to a being equal to or inferior to myself is to degrade myself and throw away my freedom. I can only become perfectly free by serving the will of God. If I do, in fact, obey other men and serve them it is not for their sake alone that I will do so, but because their will is the sacrament of the will of God. OBedience to make has no meaning unless it is primarily obedience to God. From this flow many consequences, Where there is no faith in God there can be no real order; therefore, where there is no faith obedience is without any sense. It can only be imposed on others as a matter of expediency. If there is no God, no government is logical except tyranny. And in actual fact, states that reject the idea of God tend either to tyranny or to open disorder. In either case, the end is disorder, because tyranny is itself a disorder.

If I did not believe in God I think I would be bound in conscience to become an anarchist. Yet, if I did not believe in God, I wonder if I could have the consolation of being bound in conscience to do anything."

Pretty amazing in my point of view. I don't know about what he talks about "states that reject the idea of God tend either to tyranny or to open disorder" as the first place that pops into my head is Japan. I would say that since he was Catholic, and looking at the order of their governing system he would be right. I mean they are the longest standing government in world history.

Anyway - to all 7 of you that have the possibility of reading this, shoot me your thoughts!


Jo said...

Well, I thought about China. No tyranny or open disorder (for sure), but I would say, maybe, closed disorder - a going against the rules for profit, ie bribes to surpass pollution laws. Of course, to a certain degree, that is the case everywhere. Human nature, I guess.

Is the arguement he's making is essentially faith in God = democracy?

Jhaysonn said...

HAHAHA, can you imagine if we were able to vote by majority on topics? China would rule the world! =)

Yea, I really don't understand his point of view about God and government... but the rest of it I thought was really beautiful. And in line with a lot of what he talks about earlier we really wouldn't have call for a government if we were so adept at loving people as he puts fourth.