This Sense of Liberation – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

by Mark Votava

download (16)1. Man is alienated by the society he lives in

“Man is alienated by the society he lives in.  He does not yet know what he will be when he becomes himself.  But alienated man must be wiped out, and then man as he really ought to be will come into existence.”

2. In our impatience

“It is both dangerous and easy to hate man as he is because he is not ‘what he ought to be.’  If we do not first respect what he is we will never suffer him to become what he ought to be: in our impatience we will do away with him altogether.”

3. The shadow of the situations

“But if you deny man his essence, you refuse him at the same time the respect that is due to his existence.  It is of little avail to deify man if at the same time you do not allow that he is real: if at the same time he remains simply a fluid nonentity, the shadow of the situations into which he is maneuvered by history.  What matter if he takes charge of history if history, after all, really determines him anyway?  If, in the end, he is only the reflection of his own work?”

4. In the same world as everyone else

“…though ‘out of the world’ we are in the same world as everyone else, the world of the bomb, the world of race hatred, the world of technology, the world of mass media, big business, revolution, and all the rest.  We take a different attitude to all these things, for we belong to God.  Yet so does everybody else belong to God.  We just happen to be conscious of it, and to make a profession out of this consciousness.  But does that entitle us to consider ourselves different, or even better, than others?  The whole idea is preposterous.”

5. This sense of liberation

“This sense of liberation from any illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud.  And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: ‘Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others.’  To think that for sixteen or seventeen years I have been taking seriously this pure illusion that is implicit in so much of our… thinking.”

6. A violent man cannot begin to look for the truth

“But a violent man cannot begin to look for the truth.  To start with, he wants to rest assured that his enemy is violent, and that he himself is peaceful.  For then his violence is justified.  How can he face the desperate labor of coming to recognize the great evil that needs to be healed in himself?  It is much easier to set things right by seeing one’s own evil incarnate in a scapegoat, and to destroy both the goat and the evil together.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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

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