Monday, March 22, 2010

"always divided and pulled in many directions"

“When we live superficially ... we are always outside ourselves, never quite ‘with’ ourselves, always divided and pulled in many directions ... we find ourselves doing many things that we do not really want to do, saying things we do not really mean, needing things we do not really need, exhausting ourselves for what we secretly realize to be worthless and without meaning in our lives.”

-- Thomas Merton
Love and Living


  1. Beth -

    I think I may be living superficially. I hope not..
    Sometimes I think what I am doing is rally without meaning - then the next day - it's all good. Up's and down's - that's me!

  2. me too, Brian. In fact, I know that I'm living superficially much of the time. Actually, I think that is probably a good thing - I mean, it's better than not knowing that I'm living superficially, isn't it?

    Maybe when I really cease to live superficially, these questions will be rather amusing rather than so serious?

  3. Hello,

    I reccently just stumbled across your blog when doing some research. I am enjoying going through older posts.

    I am writing from Louisville, KY. I work at Bellarmine Univeristy which houses the official Merton archives. As an admirer, you really should come and spend a day (or a week) here!

    Jessica R.

  4. Of course, you probably already have!

    Jessica R.

  5. Hi Jessica. Welcome, I'm glad you've enjoyed the blog - I've certainly enjoyed putting it together.

    Actually, I am a KY native, and I guess my first introduction to Bellarmine was in the mid 1950s when, as a child, I was enrolled in a "Spanish for children" class there. Then as I got older I knew boys who attended Bellarmine and got invited to some dances! But I haven't gotten back to see the Merton collection there. I'll have to do that when I am in KY visiting my cousins!

    Thanks for visiting!

  6. Beth -

    I pray you have a Blessed Easter season !!!!


  7. Those outside the hermitage are much more susceptible to the influences of the world. It is almost impossible not to play a role when interacting in society. As long as it does not rub us the wrong way for too long, we tolerate it.

    Merton gave us a unique perspective of one living a non-superficial life outside of societal expectations. Of course, he dealt with his own set of expectations within the church. But he preferred to remain independent as much as possible.

  8. Thanks, Brian. Happy Easter to you as well. Beth

  9. I agree with you, Larry, that this is probably Merton's greatest gift to us: "a unique perspective of one living a non-superficial life outside of societal expectations".

    He seemed to be able to more or less "follow" the rules without having them touch a place of interior freedom. There is a certain mischief and play at work here, I think. An ability to see "rules" for what they are and dance around them.

    I've recently been intrigued (obsessed, almost) with the daring of Phillipe Petit when he walked on a wire between the World Trade Buildings in 1974. Part of his art was breaking the rules - not in a way that would hurt anyone, but illegal, nonetheless. Get away with something.

    And he didn't just walk on a wire once between the Twin Trade Buildings, he DANCED on that wire. For 45 minutes he went back and forth 8 times, laying down on the wire, kneeling to salute the crowd, etc.

    That's the kind of freedom that Merton was after ... an art that really blows to smithereens societal expectations ...



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