A Cautious Man
December 10, 2008
Live In Peace Some Day
From reading today, I realized that this is the 40th anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton, certainly one of the best-known cloistered monks of all time. A Catholic convert who eventually became a Trappist Monk, the writings he issued from his monastery made him world-famous. As part of his output, he was a strong commentator on issues of social justice. As a sketch of his life published today in National Catholic Reporter puts it -

Throughout the 1960s, he wrote about the hot issues: social justice, civil rights, nuclear arms, the war in Vietnam. “I am on the side of the people who are being burned, cut to pieces, tortured, held as hostages, gassed, ruined, destroyed. They are the victims of both sides. To take sides with massive power is to take sides against the innocent.”

Ironically enough, he died accidentally while on a rare trip away from his monastery, to Asia to pursue his interests in the study of other religions and of peace.

Some words of his, on what real peace is, versus what our leaders sometimes tell us it is:

I have learned that an age in which politicians talk about peace is an age in which everybody expects war: the great men of the earth would not talk of peace so much if they did not secretly believe it possible, with one more war, to annihilate their enemies forever. Always, "after just one more war" it will dawn, the new era of love: but first everybody who is hated must be eliminated. For hate, you see, is the mother of their kind of love.

Unfortunately the love that is to be born out of hate will never be born. Hatred is sterile; it breeds nothing but the image of its own empty fury, its own nothingness. Love cannot come of emptiness. It is full of reality. Hatred destroys the real being of man in fighting the fiction which it calls "the enemy." For man is concrete and alive, but "the enemy" is a subjective abstraction. A society that kills real men in order to deliver itself from the phantasm of a paranoid delusion is already possessed by the demon of destructiveness because it has made itself incapable of love. It refuses, a priori, to love. It is dedicated not to concrete relations of man with man, but only to abstractions about politics, economics, psychology, and even, sometimes, religion.

One can only hope that our new administration could strive for a real peace, and not for what has been our nation's agenda these last few years.



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