This morning I read the Wednesday “Day” section of Thomas Merton’s Book of Hours (since it’s rather too late for the “Dawn” thoughts). I was struck by the relevance of what seemed so appropriate to our present situation. Merton was writing letters in the 1960s that were eventually gathered and published in a book entitled The Hidden Ground of Love. He had been ordered by his superiors to cease publishing anything on war and peace and so privately circulated a series of mimeographed “Cold War Letters,” many of which appear in the above-mentioned text. It’s clear that monks were supposed to be more concerned with peace than with the disconcerting issues that block the path to that peace. Merton was not willing to be silenced because his words would disturb the image of “the holy monk.”
It seems over the last several months that we are reverting to the ’60s, where serious discourse and demonstrations were the order of the day. What is missing, however, from such actions in many cases – not to say it always existed in Merton’s day either – is measured, rational thinking beforehand and restraint in the duration of the events. Perhaps Merton has something worthy to say to us, 49 years after his death.
“It seems to me that the basic problem is not political, it is apolitical and human. One of the most important things to do is to keep cutting deliberately through political lines and barriers and emphasizing the fact that these are largely fabrications and that there is another dimension, a genuine reality, totally opposed to the fictions of politics: the human dimension which politics pretend to arrogate entirely to themselves. This is the necessary first step along the long way toward the perhaps impossible task of purifying, humanizing and somehow illuminating politics themselves. Is this possible? At least we must try to hope in that, otherwise all is over. But politics as they now stand are hopeless.
Hence the desirability of a manifestly non-political witness, non-aligned, non-labeled, fighting for the reality of [man] and [his] rights and needs in the nuclear world in some measure against all the alignments.”