Thursday, November 10, 2011
A Year With Thomas Merton - November 10
Emblems in a Season of Fury
Jim Douglass sent a letter with a clipping in it about a pacifist who burned himself to death in front of the Pentagon--it must have been All Souls' Day! It was a protest against the Vietnam War. They will probably try to write him off as a nut, but he seems to have been a perfectly responsible person, a Quaker, very dedicated. What can one say of such a thing? Since I do not know the man, I do not know that his motives were necessarily wrong and confused--all I can say is that objectively it is a terrible thing. Certainly it is an awful sign, and perhaps there had to be such a sign. Certainly the sign was powerful because incontestable and final in itself (and how frightful!). It broke through the undifferentiated, uninterpretable noises, and it certainly must have hit many people hard. But in three days it becomes again contestable and in ten it is forgotten.
I went out on the porch before dawn to think of these things, and of the words of Ezekiel (22:30): "And I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land that I might not destroy it, and I found none." And while I was standing there, quails began to whistle all over the field and in the wood. I had not heard any for weeks and thought sure they were all dead, for there have been hunters everywhere. No, there they are! Signs of life, of gentleness, of helplessness, of providence, of love. They just keep on existing and loving and making more quails and whistling in the bushes.
November 7, 1965, V.313