Being What We Are Not – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The New Man
by Mark Votava
1. A stubborn insistence on being what we are not
“For pride is a stubborn insistence on being what we are not and never were intended to be. Pride is a deep, insatiable need for unreality, an exorbitant demand that others believe the lie we have made ourselves believe about ourselves. It infects at once man’s person and the whole society he lives in… Pride and selfishness then react upon one another in a vicious circle, each one greatly enlarging the other’s capacity to destroy our life. In a sense, pride is simply a form of supreme and absolute subjectivity. It sees all things from the viewpoint of a limited, individual self that is constituted as the center of the universe. Now everyone knows that, subjectively we see and feel as if we were at the center of things, since that is the way we are made. Pride however comes and elevates this subjective feeling into metaphysical absolute. The self must be treated as if, not merely in feeling but in actual fact, the whole universe revolves around it… If I am the center of the universe, then everything belongs to me. I can claim, as my due, all the good things of the earth. I can rob and cheat and bully other people. I can help myself to anything I like, and no one can resist me. Yet at the same time all must respect and love me as a benefactor, a sage, a leader, a king. They must let me bully them and take away all that they have and on top of it all they must bow down, kiss my feet and treat me as god.”
2. Avoid acting like a baby
“Humility, therefore, is absolutely necessary if man is to avoid acting like a baby all his life. To grow up means, in fact, to become humble, to throw away the illusion that I am at the center of everything and that other people only exist to provide me with comfort and pleasure…”
3. Recognize our own illusions
“We must at least know ourselves well enough to recognize our own illusions, our own limitations, our own weaknesses, enough to be able to tell when it is not the charity of Christ that speaks in our hearts, but only our own self pity… or ambition, or cowardice, or thirst for domination.”
4. Our own liberty
“Without the free and conscious and clearly realized exercise of our own liberty we cannot become, in the full sense, persons.”
5. The divine image in our soul
“Just as some men have to struggle to recover a natural, spontaneous realization of their own capacity for life and movement and physical enjoyment, so all men have to struggle to regain the spontaneous and vital awareness of their spirituality, of the fact that they have a soul that is capable of coming to life and experiencing profound and hidden values… And this spirituality in man is identified with the divine image in our soul.”
How can we stop acting like a baby all our life?
Purchase The New Man
My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!
“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism
My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!
“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline… without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.” Shane Claiborne, author and activist