Monday, October 13, 2008

A Whole Truth

“Yesterday (Monday) afternoon I had a long and good talk with Dom Damasus. Mostly about changes in the Church, the unsettled state of “the young ones,” the “loss of center” and of depth, etc. … Main point: the lack of any real depth in the monks – they are either immature or unsettled (and will leave) or they have “adjusted” by narrowing themselves down to some petty limits and restrictions they think they can “handle” so that in effect they live peacefully in little worlds of their own. I agree with this. It is sad.”[1]

These words, penned April 23, 1968, are thought provoking. Merton, of course, has a way of provoking thought. I especially enjoy and benefit from reading his journals. They offer an inside look at the humanity of the man. Seeing the humanity of Merton, and other significant others, helps me understand and accept my own humanity, helps me work on improving it into something more genuine rather than rationalizing it. It helps me to see myself as just another simple, sinning soul on an intentional journey toward some place, some destination, that is both beyond me and all the while within me. I believe this place, this destination, is simply the truth,[2] the truth that will not, can not change.

Glory be
To the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
Is now,
And ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.

It’s interesting, at least to me, how easily we can adjust ourselves to truth, how easy it is to devise ways to give truth some assent, while also, at the same time, holding it at bay. We are somehow able to etherealize truth without inhaling it into the microcosm that is our self and our immediate environment. Or we pick through its elements and choose portions as though truth were some sort of buffet table. We serve ourselves only that which we are familiar with, that which is palatable to our conditioned tastes, that which allows us to go about our self-justified busyness, even when this busyness contains elements of some spiritual nature.

“Though God is so close to all his creatures, and particularly close in the minds and hearts of men, He is yet above and beyond everyone and everything else. The chasm that yawns between the Creator and the creature, the infinite and the finite, is bridged by the mercy of God, not by a watering down of His divine nature. It is not by a weakening or debasing of His nature that He comes close to us, but rather by its utterly simple perfection that He is at once so immanently close and so transcendentally the Absolute One.”[3]

Truth is a whole and is most fruitful in our lives when it is embraced as a whole. Truth is what it is and not necessarily what I may choose for it to be. It is not concerned with my own prejudiced likes and preferences. It is not concerned with how uncomfortable it makes me feel. Truth is not affected, it is not changed, by my own futile attempts to rationalize it and pull it down to a level that makes it easy to live with in a little, impoverished 21st Century world of my own making. Truth will always issue challenges that affect my thought processes, my lifestyle choices, and the social circles that I hang out in.[4]

[1] Thomas Merton, The Other Side of the Mountain, p. 84-85
[2] John 14:6
[3] My Way of Life, The Summa Simplified, p. 15
[4] John 8:32