Friday, October 21, 2011

The great promoters of useless work (as described by Thomas Merton)

I’m reading an old book “New Seeds of Contemplation” by the late priest-monk Thomas Merton, and the chapter is on everyone’s need for solitude. He talks about some, apparently referring to his fellow monks and priests (“men dedicated to God”), who fight it.

But I also find that this paragraph seems to apply to a much broader audience—maybe you and me.

“We have said that the solitude that is important to a contemplative is, above all, an interior and spiritual thing. We have admitted that it is possible to live in deep and peaceful interior solitude even in the midst of the world and its confusion. But this truth is sometime abused in religion. There are men dedicated to God whose lives are full of restlessness and who have no real desire to be alone. They admit that exterior solitude is good, in theory, but they insist that it is far better to preserve interior solitude while living in the midst of others. In practice, their lives are devoured by activities and strangled with attachments. Interior solitude is impossible for them. They fear it. They do everything they can to escape it. What is worse, they try to draw everyone else into activities as senseless and as devouring as their own. They are great promoters of useless work. They love to organize meetings and banquets and conferences and lectures. They print circulars, write letters, talk for hours on the telephone in order that they may gather a hundred people together in a large room where they will all fill the air with smoke and make a great deal of noise and roar at one another an clap their hands and stagger home at last patting one another on the back with the assurance that they have all done great things to spread the kingdom of God.”