"If I love my brothers according to the truth, my love for them will be true not only to them but also to myself."- Thomas Merton 'No Man is an Island' pg. 10
Lately I feel the strain of a tedious monotonous lifestyle that only breaks character when I am surrounded by people that I care about. I guess it is essential to have some sort of continuity in relationships, but it seems like it with all the outside influences, the individuals ongoing perseverance for a personally unique identity, and the need for new and refreshing experiences; can make it very difficult to truly encounter the love that Christ expressed for us all. How can you reach the whole world when you cannot treat yourself of the diseases that you yourself carry? And how much better can that journey be with the aid of those closest to you?
It may sound like a jumble of ideas, but these are questions that I have been thinking through while reading Merton's great book.
He states: "We can be, in some sense, friends to all men because there is no man on earth with whom we do not have something in common. But it would be false to treat too many men as intimate friends" and then again "The lives of all the men we meet and know are woven into our own destiny, together with the lives of many we shall never know on earth. But certain ones, very few, are our close friends. Because we have more in common with them, we are able to love them with a special selfless perfection, since we have more to share. They are inseparable from our own destiny, and, therefore, our love for them is especially holy: it is a manifestation of God in our lives." (Merton, 11-12)
I see this not as an excuse for not "branching out", but rather as a helpful reminder of how our immediate impact can effect those around us. Rather than thinking we need to "get out" of our current status in order to "reach the world", we forget that experiencing God, discovering our role as the beloved, and ultimately what many deem as "simple processes" like: prayer, devotion, and worship; are things that can be achieved in such fine detail wherever a wandering soul may find themselves. We get so used to this "save the lost, save the world" mentality that we forget why we are doing it in the first place and ultimately get "lost" in a Christian subculture that does more harm than good.
I want to close with this short selection:
"Man is divided against himself and against God by his own selfishness, which divides him against his brother. This division cannot be healed by a love that places itself only on one side of the rift. Love must reach over to both sides and draw them together. We cannot love ourselves unless we love others, and we cannot love others unless we love ourselves. But a selfish love of ourselves makes us incapable of loving others. The difficulty of this commandment lies in the paradox that it would have us love ourselves unselfishly, because even our love of ourselves is something we owe to others." (Merton, XX)
Wish to discuss anything you read?
Bring it on...haha.. but really I would love to discuss it with anyone.