Normal day! I think I am really going to struggle next week when it is back to the “world”.
I have been moved by two Thomas Merton quotes:
À contemplative is not one who takes his prayer seriously, but one who takes God seriously, who is famished for truth, who seeks to live in generous simplicity, in the spirit.
Yes! It is not about solitude, silence, prayer, or meditation. It is about Jesus! Taking him seriously is the point. And all is gift!
I should add, not only for those who live a monastic/religious/vowed life – for all!
Hence monastic prayer, especially meditation and contemplative prayer, is not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in him whom we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to himself.
Rest versus action – that is the tension of the anchorite life. Simply resting in God, being present for him, and riding the wave.
Today, in Australia, is a public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday. So in honour of Her Royal Majesty, I have been watching the UK version of Humans. It is based on Swedish series called Real Humans.
In short, AI (called “synths” in the show) becoming conscious – feeling, thinking, and living in freedom. They embody various human traits – caring, agression, “philosopher”, etc. I like the way the UK does TV!
While the consciousness theme is fascinating, I have been struck by a question repeated throughout the series: “what is it like to be you?”. Of course, there is no answer because there is no point of reference. The question illustrates Existential Loneliness – only I know what it is like to be me. And the quote on my email signature comes to mind:
The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.SUD
I feel like a large part of modern life is all about avoiding the question or escaping into “false answers”. (Doesn’t Merton write about that in No Man is An Island?) So the most important question in my life, who am I?, has to be faced alone before God. I can try to give an answer to others. But there is absolutely no need to justifiy myself to others – my beliefs or my actions. There is only One to whom I must answer – “the power that established me”. In the end I have to answer to my Creator by being “me”. I have to hold in tension the various aspects of my life – freedom and necessaity are at the top of my life at the moment.
So may the Heart of Jesus have mercy on you today!
… the self has the task of becoming itself in freedom.Sickness unto death
So I am having this love affair with Sickness unto Death today. (Or should that be I am having a love affair with Kierkegaard?) So the above really spoke to me.
A major theme in anchorite spirituality is freedom. Unlike more traditional monasticism, where the major theme is obedience, anchorites have the freedom to build their own spirituality alone. I think, in a way, this is how in a modern context, the ancient tradition can be lived. Built around prayer, meditation, and reading, the anchorite builds their life in freedom completely focused on Jesus.
So I found this quote from Merton that says it much better:
This means I must use my freedom in order to love, with full responsibility and authenticity, not merely receiving a form imposed on me by external forces, or forming my own life according to an approved social pattern, but directing my love to the personal reality of my brother, and embracing God’s will in its naked, often unpenetrable mystery. I cannot discover my “meaning” if I try to evade the dread which comes from first experiencing my meaninglessness!Contemplative Prayer
The deed involves a sacrifice and a risk. The sacrifice: infinite possibility is surrendered on the altar of the form; all that but a moment ago floated playfully through one’s perspective has to be exterminated; none of it may penetrate into the work; the exclusiveness of such a confrontation demands this. The risk: the basic word can only be spoken with one’s whole being; whoever commits himself may not hold back part of himself; and the work does not permit me, as a tree or man might, to seek relaxation in the It-world; it is imperious: if I do not serve it properly, it breaks, or it breaks me.I and Thou
I have been reading Buber’s I and Thou. I have always thought of it as a book beyond me – it is way too philosophical for me to get near it. But I am very much enjoying and finding it very upbuilding. I feel like it is the flip-side of Kierkegaard’s Single Individual – my relationship to others and to God as You.
Anyway, I thought the above quote was worth reproducing here.