I think contemplatives are a bit subversive. Of course, that could be their nature – by spending time in contemplation they are able to force us, if we actually take the time to pause, to set aside our preconceptions and listen to our true self. The creative force that resides inside.
I’m not sure what has drawn me to read New Seeds of Contemplation except it helps me see myself more clearly. Today’s journey into the realm of Merton has left me with 3 questions or points to reflect upon. [Note: the text below is a direct quote and not reflective of my personal preference when it comes to pronouns – it is the way Merton wrote in 1962.]
- Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.
- My chief care should not be to find pleasure or success… or even things like virtue and wisdom… my pleasure and my one joy should be to know: “Here is the thing that God has willed for me.”
- The right of another man is the expression of God’s love and God’s will… in respecting the right of another… He [God] is enabling me to share, as His son, in His care for my brother.
Number 1 seems intuitive – my perception and description of God lies more in who I am than who God is. I wonder how much I project of myself onto my image of God. I would guess that isn’t uncommon – the “God” we see is God inside reaching out to God in others.
“My chief care… should be to know: ‘Here is the thing that God has willed for me.’” How “simple” things would be if “being happy” was not the end that I sought but that realizing what I do as part of God’s plan is enough to make me happy? Again, intuitively it makes sense: acknowledging what I do is really part of God’s greater plan. But what happens when I don’t sens that fulfillment? What happens when my doubt sneaks in and derails the understanding of God’s presence in my actions?
I think, to sense doubt comes when I forget my principal responsibility – being what I’m created to be and nothing more or less. Sometimes the doubt surfaces because it should – what I do doesn’t really live into God’s mission (at least as I perceive it) and the work I end up doing is simply drudgery or even “make work”. Thinking back… the question is the answer. That makes more sense now. If I’m simply making work without an understanding of how that work might further God’s plan then I have become misfocused; if I ask that question of myself then I may not be doing God’s work. Interesting…
The 3rd reflective point may have to wait for another day. But first blush tells me that the idea offered is essential to finding an “end” to senseless issues of today: violence, racial tensions, and societal mistrust. When I respect the rights of another person I am actually witnessing to God in them and in me. By not respecting the rights of another I actually do not respect God’s presence and creative power in myself – I sell myself and my creativity short.
A simple answer to a complex question: how to create a harmonious community? We do that by honoring each other and through that honor we actually ensure our own respect. But society teaches a “zero-sum game” if someone else wins then I lose. The truth is when it comes to people – all can win.
Troublesome but enticing on a “Friday” afternoon.