Saturday, March 10, 2012

the vocation to become fully awake (solitude)

"The solitary is one who is called to make one of the most terrible decisions possible to man: the decision to disagree completely with those who imagine that the call to diversion and self-deception is the voice of truth and who can summon the full authority of their own prejudice to prove it.  He is therefore bound to sweat blood in anguish, in order to be loyal to God, to the Mystical Christ, and to humanity as a whole, rather than to the idol which is offered to him, for his homage, by a particular group.  He must renounce the blessing of every convenient illusion that absolves him from responsibility when he is untrue to his deepest self and to his inmost truth - the image of God in his own soul.

"The price of fidelity in such a task is a completely dedicated humility - an emptiness of heart in which self-assertion has no place.  For if he is not empty and undivided in his inmost soul, the solitary will be nothing more than an individualist.  And in that case, his non-conformity is nothing but an act of rebellion: the substitution of idols and illusions of his own choosing for those chosen by society.  And this, of course, is the greatest of dangers.  It is both futility and madness.  It leads only to ruin.

"For to forget oneself, at least to the extent of preferring a social myth with a certain limited productiveness, is a lesser evil than clinging to a private myth which is only a sterile dream.  And so, as Heraclitus said long ago, "We must not act and speak like sleepers ... The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own."  Hence the vocation to solitude is not a vocation to the warm narcissistic dream of a private religion.  It is a vocation to become fully awake, even more than the common somnolence permits one to be, with its arbitrary selection of approved dreams, mixed with a few really valid fruitful conceptions."

-- Thomas Merton, Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude, in the book Disputed Questions (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960) p. 183-184

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