Friday, September 23, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - September 21

The Slighter Gestures of Dissent

"For what, in that world of gigantic horror, was tolerable except the slighter gestures of dissent?" So says E. M. Forster, discussing his satisfaction on reading the early T. S. Eliot during World War I.

We tend to think massive protest is all that is valid today. But the massive is also manipulated and doctored. It is false. The genuine dissent remains individual. At least that is my option. In my view it is saner and nobler to take the kind of view E. M. Forster takes, not line up with the manipulated group. But to the group that looks like defeat. It looks like futility.

What is likely to be wrong is the failure of action. This kind of dissent may never be anything but words, attitudes, ideas.

On the other side, what seems to be "action" on the mass scale may be nothing more than a parade--or an organized disaster. A big, blown-up expression of a puny idea which, by its very emptiness, leads to a cataclysm of destructiveness. This is the gigantic horror against which even the slightest idea is of great value.

September 10, 1960, IV.44

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