Well, I am back after all this time. Trying to keep a blog going is extremely difficult for someone as spiritually scatterbrained as I can be. My reading has waned in these late Summer, early Fall weeks, much as it did last year. I had thought that last year’s swoon was primarily due to my hectic schedule, but this year my schedule was at least a little less hectic and I found that I swooned again. There is a lot of swooning going on around here. So, I guess it is not so much about my schedule but more about my laziness. August and September are hard times for me to read for some reason.
But it is October and I am reading Merton. I am picking up where I left off in New Seeds of Contemplation and there seems to be a rejuvenation of sorts coming to me as I read. The more I am reading, the stronger my desire to read becomes. Merton can have that effect on you. Perhaps I should save my Merton readings for the hard part of the year! Or, perhaps I should just be more disciplined. In any event, I am thinking on detachment.
“I wonder if there are twenty men alive in the world now who see things as they really are. That would mean that there were twenty men who were free, who were not dominated or even influenced by any attachment to any created thing or to their own selves or to any gift of God, even to the highest, the most supernaturally pure of His graces. I don’t believe that there are twenty such men alive in the world. But there must be one or two. They are the ones who are holding everything together and keeping the universe from falling apart.” – Thomas Merton, Detachment.
What is detachment? I mean much more than mere austere living for its own sake. There are those who tell me that life is to be found in abnegation. When you deny yourself earthly gifts and pleasures then you are really living the life of the disciple! I think that this kind of detachment is more about the person than it is about God. I mean that a lot of people are living these austere lives because they get some kind of satisfaction out of it, which is itself another earthly pleasure. So, there is no real detachment. It is only an attachment to something else, namely the good feeling they get, their satisfaction in themselves and their actions. I don’t think there is any real detachment in that.
Perhaps true detachment is renunciation in the hopes of annunciation. That the forsaking of earthly things would result in a deepening of the sense of God’s presence with you, i.e. living a life of self-abnegation in the hopes that He would condescend to bless me with a vision, or sign, or a truth. There is no doubt that these things are good and worthy of desire. It is equally true that God can and does do these things in the life of the believer. And yet, there seems to be inside of this form of renunciation a subtle selfishness, a sort of manipulation of God. It is not real detachment because I am still doing it for selfish motives. Granted, it’s not selfish like fasting to win the lottery is selfish, but it still has tentacles of selfishness embedded into it. So, even this prized and worthy idea of detachment is tainted and not really detachment. What’s a brother to do?
“You will never be able to have perfect interior peace and recollection unless you are detached even from the desire of peace and recollection. You will never be able to pray perfectly until you are detached from the pleasures of prayer.
If you give up all these desires and seek one thing only, God’s will, He will give you recollection and peace in the middle of labor and conflict and trial.”
True detachment is about seeking. If I detach myself from the world or from anything for any reason other than union with Christ, then it is not real detachment. It is just another form of attachment. And at the very best, I am only seeking myself. Somehow, in someway, I am to empty myself of all that is self. In that emptiness and darkness, I will find God. And more importantly, He will find me, not the fake me so enslaved to my ego, or my false idea of myself, but the real me.
It is God alone Who I am to seek, not His blessings.
It is God alone Who I am to desire, not His gifts.
It is God alone with Whom I long to be in union, not to manipulate with tainted words.