Boinkie's Blog

Universalis

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I love Thomas Merton's writings...but a lot of those who deify him forget that he was a pacifist in World War II....

Sorry, but if he even drove a Red Cross ambulance or worked with refugees I'd probably admire him...he DID work a couple months in Harlam with Catherine Doherty, but the rest of the war he merely went around viewing his navel trying to find where "god" wanted him...as a teacher, then in a monastery...and ended up in the Trappists...

Sorry, Tom, but if you love God, you love your neighbor too...and I know you were given the gift of writing and contemplation, but did you ever put your money where your mouth was? I mean, it was nice you worked a couple months in Harlam, but Eddie Doherty noted you spent a lot of time at restaurants discussing poetry and art with the Baroness...(Eddie married her later, and was a bit jealous of your intellect...but then he was merley a Chicago newspaperman, a la "the front page"...not well educated, cynical, but having a way with words...you were merely a highfalutin poet)...

Of course, CS Lewis wrote an essay about the need to continue scholarship during wartime...essentially saying that there was a need to keep up the intellectual life so that after the war we will still be civilized...so perhaps I'm wrong...and of course, JP2,Karol Woytewa's underground work was acting in Polish plays, so that Polands' intellectual heritage would not be destroyed...

However, CS Lewis was a veteran of WWI, and JP2 was drafted into slave labour and had little choice, but risked his life by performing in the plays...

So maybe Merton is right, but maybe he was just so hoity toity that he though he was superior to those maggots who actually got their hands dirty by fighting a terrible evil...

OF course, during the Viet Nam war, his pacifism became an "in" thing...opposing the war (but I don't remember him saying a peep about Cambodia, the prosecution of Catholics in North Viet Nam, or criticizing the various persecutions in China, especially the persecution of Buddhist monks in Tibet?...so I suspect his pacifism was merely ideological rather than religious...*

As for his Buddhism, as an Asian by marriage, I suspect he would be hoity toity superior ascended beings like the "buddhists" I put up with as a student, not the humble monks of Japan or Thailand or Tibet....

Or maybe my criticism is a "class" thing: an innate jealousy but also an innate impatience with upper class intellectuals who never did a day's work in their life...Guess I have more in common with Aristophanies and the wags in the bleachers than with Socrates in Cloudcukooland...

Then there is THIS,
the fact he has an illegitamate child when a student at Cambridge in England (Wonder who took care of the kid?) and not mentioned is something I read in his biography: That he had a girlfriend at the end of his life...

A more rounded evaluation of his life is HERE...

all conspiracy theories about his murder are bunk to those of us familiar with third world electrical wires (one day I'll post a photo of the wiring of our house)....

So yes, I have several of his books here, and as a Catholic, I think he is in heaven, but then, I believe in purgatory....

1 Comments:

  • you don't really understand what merton was about. his calling was to live in a monastery, not fight in wars or run a soup kitchen. some are called to the monastic life, and some are called to working hands on with poverty and social issues. merton was not perfect, but the way he lived his life was needed.

    By Anonymous Jeff, at 7:50 AM  

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