Too Obsessed With Success – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Writings – Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham

by Mark Votava

97808091331471. The heresy of individualism

“The heresy of individualism: thinking oneself a completely self-sufficient unit and asserting this imaginary ‘unity’ against all others.  The affirmation of the self as simply ‘not the other.’  But when you seek to affirm your unity by denying that you have anything to do with anyone else, by negating everyone else in the universe until you come down to you: what is there left to affirm?  Even if there were something to affirm, you would have no breath left with which to affirm it.”   

2. The cosmic dance

“The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair.  But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.  Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.”

3. To recover your basic natural unity

“The first thing that you have to do, before you start thinking about such a thing as contemplation, is to try to recover your basic natural unity, reintegrate your compartmentalized being into a coordinated and simple whole, and learn to live as a unified human person.  This means that you have to bring back together the fragments of your distracted existence so that when you say ‘I’ there is really someone present to support the pronoun you have just uttered.”

4. Indefinable quality of our living being

“The inner self is not a part of our being, like a motor in a car.  It is our entire substantial reality itself, on its highest and most personal and most existential level.  It is like life, and it is life: it is our spiritual life when it is most alive.  It is the life by which everything else in us lives and moves.  It is in and through and beyond everything that we are.  If it is awakened it communicates a new life to the intelligence in which it lives, so that it becomes a living awareness of itself: and this awareness is not so much something that we ourselves have, as something that we are.  It is a new and indefinable quality of our living being.”

5. The contemplative intuition

“…the contemplative intuition of reality is a perception of value: a perception which is not intellectual or speculative, but practical and experiential.  It is not just a matter of observation but of realization.  It is not something abstract and general, but concrete and particular.  It is a personal grasp of the existential meaning and value of reality.”

6. Too obsessed with success

“If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live.  If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.