I watched the DVD-film, “Into the Wild” last night.
It reminded me of Merton. And Nietzsche. And 2 of my nephews. And myself. The compelling need to somehow turn away from “the world” – its lies, its greed, its power – to hear and follow the voice of the soul. The call to be who you are.
Somewhere down in my comments, Marc brought up a book about the “counter-culture” of Catholicism during the pre-Vatican II years. 1938 – 1962. These were the years that Merton was drawn into Catholicism and entered the monastery. These were also the years of my childhood.
There was definitely something counter-cultural about Catholicism during those years. Catholics stood apart. We went to our own schools, and rarely married “outside the faith”. We made great efforts to structure and understand our lives in religious (and sometimes overly pious) ways - but did we counter the culture in which we were enmeshed? Or were we sucked in like everyone else?
I don’t believe that Merton was ever truly touched (or bothered) by the cult of Catholicism that I knew as a child. Merton once said, referring specifically to Thich Nhat Hanh, that he was more like a Buddhist monk than his Catholic brethren.
But I do not believe that Merton would have ever left the Trappists or the Catholic Church.
Merton went deeper. To the place where one can find in Catholicism the call to be who you are. And that is, by definition, counter-cultural. And he was.
I wish that organized religion could be more of a guide for this soul-protest. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Never has been. Maybe, like Nietzche said, one has to move past this expecting an answer and comfort from "religion".