Thomas Merton is living through the hotter part of the Cold War; the Cuban Missile Crisis would blow up a year later; he had cause to be afraid. In the days before this diary entry,* bombers had been flying low over the Monastery of Gethsemane, his home. Thinking about US and world politics aroused:
… my own fear, my own desperate desire to survive, even if only as a voice uttering an angry protest, while the waters of death close over the whole continent.
Why am I so willing to believe that the country will be destroyed? It is certainly possible, and in some sense it may even be likely. But this is a case where, in spite of evidence, one must continue to hope. One must not give in to defeatism and despair, just as one must hope for life in a mortal illness which has been declared incurable.
This is the point. This weakness and petulancy, rooted in egoism.
Defeatism and despair are rooted in egoism, and they are not necessarily good survival tactics. Let us ask the Lord for a taste of the perfect love that casts out fear and despair
Thomas Merton, Turning towards the World, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, p162.
Image from CD.
The sticker across the shop window read: Don’t forget yourself this Christmas!
Just what did it mean?
Was the mobile phone company advising passers-by to selflessly throw themselves into making the family celebrations enjoyable for all?
Or was it encouraging the great public to remember to buy themselves that expensive 5G mobile phone?
Or maybe suggesting that, like the man in the first photo, over the next few days we should text someone who would like to hear from us?
Or perhaps like Robert Walker, the Scottish anti-slavery campaigner, we should seize the moment to take time out in the fresh air and be one in our thoughts and prayers with our Creator?
If this were a proper questionnaire, it would now say, tick as many boxes as apply (to you!)
Please follow the link to learn more about the Skating Minister who was so much more than a skating minister.
This extract from Mary Webb’s novel, The Golden Arrow, follows on well from Chesterton’s Donkey yesterday, and from the posts about Saints Augustine and Monica. Let’s pray that we may be alive to the silver flutes playing at the great moments of our lives, and when we are amid the encircling gloom, may we follow the kindly light.
As we begin reading, Stephen has come home to Deborah after a hard day at work. It is December and they are seated together before the fire.
He turned restlessly.
‘Stroke more!’ he said imperiously, ‘and sing! don’t talk.’
She began to sing in a hushed voice, while the firelight stole up and down the walls, and the wind lashed itself into the yelping fury of starved hounds.
‘We have sought it, we have sought the golden arrow!
(bright the sally-willows sway)
Two and two by paths low and narrow,
Arm in crook along the mountain way.
Break o’ frost and break o’ day!
Some were sobbing through the gloom
When we found it, when we found the golden arrow –
Wand of willow in the secret cwm.’
She looked down in the silence afterwards; he was asleep. She took up the small woollen boots. She would be doing them when he awoke, and he would ask what they were.
I know right well what he’ll say,’ she thought. ‘He’ll say, “What the devil are those doll’s leggings?” – for he calls all my stockings leggings and my nightgown a shirt, him being such a manly chap, and nothing of the ‘ooman in him, thank goodness!’
She crocheted in a maze of delight at this thought and at the prospect of telling him her news.
But when Stephen awoke, he oly wanted to go to bed, and never noticed the boots. It is the tragedy of the self-absorbed that when the great moments of their lives go by in royal raiment with a sound of silver flutes, they are so muffled in self and the present that they neither hear nor see.
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The next day Stephen left her, oblivious to her news.
Stiperstones and the Devil’s Chair, which stand over the village where The Golden Arrow takes place.