Sunday, January 29, 2012
A Year With Thomas Merton - January 29
Going Nowhere, Having Nothing to Do
It is useless to simply substitute the "experience" of oneself as a hermit for the "experience" of oneself as active, as a "monk," as a "writer," etc. The same error is repeated in a new way. In reality the hermit life does imply a certain attrition of one's identity. In context a word that implies "loss of" identity. This must also be resisted: one does not live alone in order to become a vegetable. Yet the resistance does not take the form of asserting a social and evident identity of one who is going somewhere or doing something special. A curious kind of identity, then: "in God."
Merely living alone but continuing to engage in a lot of projects is not yet an authentic hermit life. The projects must go. Solitude demands an emptiness, an aimlessness, a going nowhere, a certain "having nothing to do," especially nothing that involves the growth and assertion of one's "image" and one's "career."
Distraction: the illusory expectation of some fulfillment, which in the end is only a human loneliness.
Were you not forever distracted by expectation, as if everything were announcing to you some (coming) beloved?
(Rainer Maria Rilke, 1st Duino Elegy)
January 29, 1966, VI.356-57