Fear of ignorance that comes from clinging to a stupid idea. Fear of ignorance that comes from submersion in the body, in surrendering to the need for comfort and consolation. Yet, at the same time, one must not fear the possibility of relative lucidity in all these things, provided they are understood. There is a little lucidity in love, a little lucidity in alcohol, a little lucidity in religion, but there is also the danger of being engulfed more or less easily in all of this. My great fear is then the fear of surrendering to sham lucidity and to the “one source” theory of lucidity – clinging to one kind of affirmation and excluding everything else – which means sinking back into ignorance and superstition. One of the worst sources of delusion is, of course, an exclusive attachment to supposed “logic” and reason. Worse still when the logic and reason are centered on what claims to be religious truth. This can be as deep a source of blindness as any in the world, sex included. One always has to distinguish and go beyond: one has to question reason in order to get to the deeper awareness of reality that is built into life itself. What I fear is living in such a way that life becomes opaque and one-sided.
Love this from Merton, on so many levels. This stirs up so many random connections.
The ignorance of clinging to a stupid idea. I have known this ignorance! How much of our spiritual search isn’t merely swinging from one stupid idea to another like so many dangling vines. Each one we hope will carry us hence, to some more meaningful perch, to some more meaningful tree. And in some of these trees we build ourselves forts with ramparts and then fill them with rules and self-imposed definitions demonstrating the superior nature of this perch over every other one found in all the other trees of this considerable forest we call the world. Some of us grow old and die alone in our perched forts. But most of us swing away, eventually, on the next dangling carrot.
The ignorance coming from submersion in the body, surrendering to the need for comfort and consolation. This one I know too. How easily the pains of this chemoed body can suck me into their world and captivate, define me. How easily submerged, how easily defined by current discomforts, how easy to so submerge that life wholly becomes a quest for escape, God becomes only a means of removal, others a means of consolation in the midst of it.
How well I know of surrendering to sham lucidity – one source lucidity. Funny how that one source of lucidity always seems to be pocked with my own personal trademark, be it political or religious. The sham lucidity of saying, “We see” and then howling at the blindness all around us. Self-serving tribal thinking masquerading as humble insight we wish all others only had the sense to possess (though we could certainly teach them, poor souls).
The wisdom of seeing a little lucidity in love, in alcohol, in religion. What a grouping! Strains of the Preacher: “Be not righteous overmuch, nor wicked overmuch.” The truly wise man avoids all extremes – or as Franklin put it, “I am an extreme moderate.” In what odd and unexpected connections can light be found.
And the greatest delusion – the exclusive attachment to supposed “logic” and reason – worse still when centered on what claims to be religious truth. I majored in this one for a decade or two. John Piper’s book Think captures the delusion in penultimate fashion as he shapes a Jesus who talked and reasoned like any enlightened westerner or Greek philosopher. If only we can have the logical wits to follow him. In my former brand of religion, this amounted to detailed laws of correctly reading Scripture through logical lenses of command, example, necessary inference, laws of exclusion, inclusion, et al, ad nauseum. Opaque. One-sided. Flatlined.
Oh the joyous simplicity, oh elusive lucidity of knowing Christ, of knowing Life, of knowing Peace. Here. Now. This reality built into life itself, available and beckoning. Without the additives and preservatives of religious scruples and prescriptions, of political maneuverings and calculations. How joyous to simply be at home within one’s own skin, within one’s own bones, however frail they be. And then, looking out, with Jefferson, to realize that “there is not a sprig of grass that grows uninteresting to me.”
Full enlightenment? I’ll leave that to the spiritual masters both real and self-imagined. I’ll be quite happy with just a little lucidity.
Sunrise Over Smith Point by Robert Lewis