Saturday, August 11, 2007


Absurdity” is another word that is big for Merton.

Some societies resort to an air of intense seriousness, as in a mass movement, for diversion. Merton claims that our own society prefers the absurd:

“… our absurdity is blended with a certain hard-headed, fully determined seriousness with which we devote ourselves to the acquisition of money, to the satisfaction of our appetite for status, and our justification of ourselves as contrasted with the totalitarian iniquity of our opposite number.” (Disputed Questions, p. 178)

The disconcerting task of one who attends the life of interior solitude is facing and accepting her own absurdity:

“The anguish of realizing that underneath the apparently logical pattern of a more or less ‘well organized’ and rational life, there lies an abyss of irrationality, confusion, pointlessness, and indeed of apparent chaos. This is what immediately impresses itself upon the man who has renounced diversion. It cannot be otherwise: for in renouncing diversion, he renounces the seemingly harmless pleasure of building a tight, self-contained illusion about himself and about his little world. He accepts the
difficulty of facing the million things in his life which are incomprehensible, instead of simply ignoring them. Incidentally it is only when the apparent absurdity of life is faced in all truth that faith really becomes possible. Otherwise, faith tends to be a kind of diversion, a spiritual amusement, in which one gathers up accepted, conventional formulas and arranges them in the approved mental patterns, without bothering to investigate their meaning, or asking if they have any practical consequences in one’s life. (Disputed Questions, pp. 178-179)

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