Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the courage to be simple

It takes more courage than we imagine to be perfectly simple with other men. Our frankness is often spoiled by a hidden barbarity, born of fear.

False sincerity has much to say, because it is afraid. True candor can afford to be silent. It does not need to face an anticipated attack. Anything it may have to defend can be defended with perfect simplicity.

-- Thomas Merton.
No Man is an Island (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955) pages 194-5
also in A Merton Reader, ed. by Thomas P. McDonnell, (New York: Image Books, 1989) page 123

6 comments:

  1. true understanding between two people is extremely rare

    it's very difficult

    i prefer the casual and mundane interactions

    because of fear, i suppose

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  2. I agree with you Professor about true understanding between people being rare. At a certain level, I'd say it is impossible.

    What I like about this quote, though, is the challenge to be simple, exactly who I am, without needing to imbelish what I think I am projecting.

    That's not easy, either, but imo it is do-able.

    The courage to be silent, to listen, to just be there, could be a daring risk that just might allow more honesty between people.

    We do way too much mindless chattering, anyway. I suppose it is based in fear, or boredom, or just an inability to sit still.

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  3. After a few weeks of socialising with old and dear friends, I find myself feeling a little lost. The temptation to play the role expected of us is too great for me to resist.

    "We do way too much mindless chattering, anyway. I suppose it is based in fear, or boredom, or just an inability to sit still."
    The human equivalent of social grooming in our primate cousins, perhaps...

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  4. Yes, chattering monkeys is a good way to see ourselves! That takes the edge off.

    Enjoying your photos from around the world. You find the quiet even amidst the chattering!

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  5. "No Man Is An Island" is the book of Merton's that I go back to over and over (perhaps in winter) these past 2 decades. It is so cool to pick it up and see something anew.

    Additionally, you may laugh, and I may join you in that, but "true candor" of quietness is something I marveled at while watching Johnny Depp's and Juliette Lewis' characters in "Gilbert Grape." I am more quiet than not, and feel it sells one out to say much at all. To sell out one's self is also to sell out the favorite tabernacle of Jesus.

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  6. I'm going to have to watch Gilbert Grape again, Carol, because I've forgotten it (and I enjoy most everything that Johnny Depp does).

    I find that many times when I say things, it doesn't seem "true" - it seems like I'm embellishing, or masking things. Distorting. And I don't know how to say what is true. So silence becomes the most appropriate response. I like the way you put it: "To sell out one's self is also to sell out the favorite tabernacle of Jesus".

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Pharisaism

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