Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thomas Merton: On Suffering

The human ego is a deep well, drawing us - if we are unaware of its power over us - down into a self-reinforcing vortex that is evermore sensitive and painful. It is the source of human suffering, a point made by mystics, contemplatives and enlightened sages from all the world's great wisdom and religious  traditions.

An existential crisis that everyone must face on his or her own in the quiet of the night or the bustle of the day, it is most painful for those who have the most, hence the suffering (and the potential for spiritual awakening) that we - the most privileged generations the world has ever produced - must encounter and overcome as we try to find lasting meaning in our lives.

Thomas Merton
"Indeed," the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, observed, "the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture. This is another of the great perversions by which the devil uses our philosophies to turn our whole nature inside out, and eviscerate all our capacities for good, turning them against ourselves."
[Thomas Merton, "The Seven Story Mountain," pp. 82-83.]

No comments: