Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Rat-Race Towards Nothing

Amish youth near Charm, Ohio

Thomas Merton writes:

"Let us start from one admitted fact: if prayer, meditation, and contemplation were once taken for granted as central realities in human life everywhere, they are so no longer. They are regarded, even by believers, as somehow marginal and secondary. What counts is getting things done." (
Contemplation in a World of Action)

"Getting things done" - that is the quantitative life. Discerning what one ought to do and what should get done - that's the qualitative life. The former is the "doing" life, the latter is the "being" life. 

Merton says that the Jesus-life "aims at a certain quality of life, a level of awareness, a depth of consciousness, an area of transcendence and adoration which are not usually possible in an active secular existence." The authentic Jesus-follower seeks to be free from what William Faulkner called "the same frantic steeplechase toward nothing which is the essence of "worldliness" everywhere." (Ib., 9)

In the qualitative life there is a certain awareness and perspective, "an authentic understanding of God's presence in the world and his intentions for man. A merely fictitious and abstract isolation does not provide this awareness." (Ib.) In such a life we "escape in some measure from the senseless tyranny of quantity." (Ib., 10)

To live this way is not to escape from the world or be against the world. It is to be for the world in ways the world cannot understand.

When I read Merton I am breathing fresh, woodland air in the midst of a polluted, quantitative, doing-culture. What is most needed today for lovers and embracers of Jesus is to discover the inner life in such as a way as to make all of life something that is lived out of a solid, deep, aware, discerning center, which is the human heart morphed into greater Christlikeness.

In my new book I share how a praying life frees us from the quantitative life - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.