Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hannah Arrendt & the Banality of Evil

So - in my effort to make sense of what is going on in the world today (and perhaps always), I have been re-reading the works of Hannah Arrendt. Today I found this hour long interview with her, which totally engaged me. Arrendt also spoke strongly to Merton, though he never directly corresponded with her.

Last week there was an article in the NYT ("A Voice of Hate in America's Heartland") about a very "normal" young man who identified with white supremacy. The article and the outcry following it reminded me of the backlash Arrendt's article, "Eichmann in Jerusalem", got when it appeared in the New Yorker in 1963.

I may have to drag this out some to understand it better.

"Writing is an essential part of understanding." - Hannah Arrendt

[Have decided to use louie as a place to keep track of things, rather than as a "blog" per se. Hence my "dragging things out". It is a sort of public journal where I can easily find things later that I thought I had lost. Follow at your own risk.]

Dorothy & Tamar

On the 37th anniversary of Dorothy's death:

“If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure I could not have felt the more exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms.”
— Dorothy Day
reflecting on the birth of her daughter Tamar

Friday, November 24, 2017


Photo by Thomas Merton
Sufism looks at man as a heart and a spirit and a secret, and the secret is the deepest part. The secret of man is God's secret; therefore it is in God. My secret is God's innermost knowledge of me, which He alone possesses. It is God's secret knowledge of myself in Him, which is a beautiful concept. The heart is the faculty by which man knows God and there Sufism develops the heart.

This is a very important concept in the contemplative life, both in Sufism and in Christian tradition. To develop a heart that knows God, not just a heart that loves God, but a heart that knows God. How does one know God in the heart? By praying in the heart. The Sufis have ways of learning to pray so that you are really praying in the heart, from the heart, not just saying words, not just thinking good thoughts or making intentions or acts of the will, but from the heart. This is a very ancient Biblical concept that is carried over from Jewish thought into monasticism. It is the spirit which loves God, in Sufism. The spirit is almost the same word as the Biblical word "spirit" -- the breath of life. So man knows God with his heart, but loves God with his life. It is your living self that is an act of constant love for God and this inmost secret of man is that by which he contemplates God, it is the secret of man in God himself.

-- Thomas Merton, speaking to a group of Catholic sisters in Alaska, 2 1/2 months before his death in 1968.

Who Are Sufi Muslims and Why Do Some Extremists Hate Them?

Today, November 24, 2017, in the NY Times:

CAIRO — Militants detonated a bomb inside a crowded mosque in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday and then sprayed gunfire on panicked worshipers as they fled, killing at least 235 people and wounding at least 109 others. Officials called it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.
Most worshipers at the mosque were Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical form of Islam that some extremists consider heretical. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Joshua Casteel: How I became a conscientious objector

Joshua Casteel is a remarkable person: writer, playwright, public speaker, an Army veteran and former West Point cadet who became a foe of war and a model Christian. He died five years ago, age 32, of cancer that was probably caused by breathing toxic smoke burned at his base in Iraq.

His one book, "Letters from Abu Ghraib", has just been issued in a revised edition. It’s a collection of intimate letters sent by Joshua to friends and family in 2004-5 during his service as a US Army interrogator and Arabic linguist in the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at the notorious Abu Ghraid Prison in Iraq.

"Letters from Abu Ghraib" will come to be recognized as a classic of anti-war literature widely used in classes and discussion groups. The letters reveal how, as a consequence of interrogating imprisoned Iraqis, Joshua undergoes a conversion to a deeper Christianity that brings with it the conviction “’that service in my current way is absolutely wrong, and totally outside the bounds of the witness of the New Testament ... If people do not understand this uncompromising allegiance, and think me a deserter, so be it. … I will take deadly serious Christ’s call to Peter that he drop his nets and follow. I cannot continue as an American war fighter.”

 In 2005 Joshua obtained an early discharge as a conscientious objector.

Friday, November 10, 2017

At Play In the Lions' Den

The cover photo alone is enough for me to buy the book. I know Jim did a good job. This book is a must have for me. I'm getting a copy for all of my friends for Xmas too. Thank you Jim Forest for being there and for sharing the story with all of us.

More information about the book is HERE.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

love of our deluded fellow man as he actually is

Thomas Merton Zen Photography, courtesy Bellarmine University
"In the long run, no one can show another the error that is within him, unless the other is convinced that his critic first sees and loves the good that is within him. So while we are perfectly willing to tell our adversary he is wrong, we will never be able to do so effectively until we can ourselves appreciate where he is right. And we can never accept his judgment on our errors until he gives evidence that he really appreciates our own particular truth. Love, love only, love of our deluded fellow man as he actually is, in his delusion and in his sin: this alone can open the door of truth. As long as we do not have this love, as long as this love is not active and effective in our lives (for words and good wishes will never suffice) we have no real access to the truth. At least not to moral truth."
- Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p. 69


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