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

1 comment:

  1. A bit more of the Rainer Maria Rilke poem:

    " Weren't you always distracted by expectation, as if every event announced a beloved?
    (Where can you find a place to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
    going and coming and often staying all night.)
    But when you feel longing, sing of women in love; for their famous passion is still not immortal.
    Sing of women abandoned and desolate (you envy them, almost)
    who could love so much more purely than those who were gratified."