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A Beautiful Paradox


tariki
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I posted this a long time ago on another forum, and someone responded by saying it was "a beautiful paradox"....

 

Just a quote from Thomas Merton. It comes from a letter written to E.D.Andrews, an expert on the life and beliefs of the Shakers (or the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing). Andrews had sent Merton a copy of his book, Shaker Furniture, and Merton was responding to the gift. Sadly, though written in 1961, the words "in our day" remain appropriate........

 

This wordless simplicity, in which the works of quiet and holy people speak humbly for themselves. How important that is in our day, when we are flooded with a tidal wave of meaningless words: and worse still when in the void of those words the sinister power of hatred and destruction is at work. The Shakers remain as witnesses to the fact that only humility keeps man in communion with truth, and first of all with his own inner truth. This one must know without knowing it, as they did. For as soon as a man becomes aware of "his truth" he lets go of it and embraces an illusion.

 

Just to share.

 

I would add the following......

 

 

Just reflecting, it seems that "truth" is not a set of words or a set of doctrines that we enshrine within us, that we go and consult before responding to the world around us. Empathy towards others and a true response seems to draw upon "something" else, something incapable of being "our own". When we lay claim to it, claim to have "accepted" it, often it seems to become only a hammer to knock others over the head with.

 

Maybe becoming "aware" of "our" truth can only be when it has congealed, and we have ceased to be open to the living truth of others or of other ways, only content with our own - which I think Merton would say is no truth at all.

 

Then again, all the above could just be a tidal wave of meaningless words.....

 

Perhaps others have some thoughts?

 

(All posted here as it doesnt really seem a subject of "debate", nor particularly about Progressive Christianity. More something to mull over when sitting in the cafe.......)

 

:)

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The bit about wordless simplicity reminds me of some of the themes in the Dark Night of the Soul. What can you sense when there is nothing to sense, alone in the darkness and silence?

 

As far your comments about truth, it reminds me of Barth: to the degree humanity takes God's righteousness & truth and make it into a concrete thing that people, it stops being God's righteousness & truth. At that point, one could despair, or promote a self-loathing moralism, or one could strive to love others and in doing so love God.

 

Regarding what makes something a meaningless tidal wave of words, I think that is an empirical question. Or, to put in other language, we look at the fruit those words bear. A discourse could promote ignorance, hatred, love, etc. The specific consequence mentioned would be something like paralysis from over-saturation, which makes it very similar to some critiques of postmodern society (hyper-reality, gotta keep moving, etc.). But back to the point, one needs to look at the consequences of a belief system. You can't understand beliefs until you look at their relationship with human action.

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“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”

St. Francis of Assisi

 

People live near the churches and can see the steeples, but don't go to church. Can it be because they are not practicing what they preach? The words they preach has no power or integrity. If they offered something fulfilling they wouldn't have to advertise on TV, radio or promote in the usual ways of the world. Cable gives us over a hundred channels, the churches need to give us something cable doesn't reach. There are more people in the bars on Sunday searching than searching in the churches.

 

"Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”

St. Francis of Assisi

 

Silence seems to speak louder than words.

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“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”

St. Francis of Assisi

 

People live near the churches and can see the steeples, but don't go to church. Can it be because they are not practicing what they preach? The words they preach has no power or integrity. If they offered something fulfilling they wouldn't have to advertise on TV, radio or promote in the usual ways of the world. Cable gives us over a hundred channels, the churches need to give us something cable doesn't reach. There are more people in the bars on Sunday searching than searching in the churches.

 

"Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”

St. Francis of Assisi

 

Silence seems to speak louder than words.

 

I am not sure that church steeples are important. I have read in the Bible that Jesus said "wherever 2 or 3 people gather in my name, that is my church.

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Just reflecting, it seems that "truth" is not a set of words or a set of doctrines that we enshrine within us, that we go and consult before responding to the world around us. Empathy towards others and a true response seems to draw upon "something" else, something incapable of being "our own". When we lay claim to it, claim to have "accepted" it, often it seems to become only a hammer to knock others over the head with.

 

Maybe becoming "aware" of "our" truth can only be when it has congealed, and we have ceased to be open to the living truth of others or of other ways, only content with our own - which I think Merton would say is no truth at all.

 

Not at all 'meaningless' Tariki, and thank you for this rich thought. This deepy resonates with me in relation to some thoughts I had recently. The Greek word for 'truth' (aletheia) used in the NT means 'the reality behind the appearance' (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine). The term 'fact' seems to represent 'the form' (perhaps the parts) whereas the term 'truth' points to the reality behind the form (perhaps the sum of the parts). It occurred to me that 'truth' and 'fact' are therefore two different things. Fact can be known intellectually without experiencing it (doctrine can be like that), but truth must be experienced.

 

For me this expereience is the spiritual import of the meeting of the pregnant Elizabeth and the pregnant Mary, when the child in Elizabeth's womb leaped for joy. This is what seems to happen in my heart when I encounter truth. It's an experience that takes me beyond the mere apprehension of meaning. Maybe I'm rambling now - so I'll stop.

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