Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
|Philosophy on Peace|
Thomas Merton's Letter
Czeslaw Milosz (born 1911)
Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice.
It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity
to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
Merton's writings on war and peace did not sit well with Milosz:
Letter to Czeslaw Milosz (March 1962)
This is one of those phases one goes through. I certainly do no consider myself permanently dedicated to a crusade for peace and I am beginning to see the uselessness and absurdity of getting too involved in a "peace movement." The chief reason why I have spoken out was that I felt I owed it to my conscience to do so. There are certain things that have to be clearly stated. I had in mind particularly the danger arising from the fact that some of the most belligerent people in this country are Christians, on the one hand fundamentalist Protestants and on the other certain Catholics. They both tend to appeal to the bomb to do a "holy" work of destruction in the name of Christ and Christian truth. This is completely intolerable and the truth has to be stated. I cannot in conscience remain indifferent. Perhaps this sounds priggish, and perhaps I am yielding to subtle temptations of self-righteousness. Perhaps too there is a great deal of bourgeois self-justification in all this. Perhaps I am just trying to make myself feel that I am still in continuous contact with the tradition of my fathers, in English history, fighting for rights and truth and so on. And so on. In other words there is a large element of myth in it all. And yet one cannot know everything and analyze everything. It seems that there may be some point in saying what I have said, and so I have said it.
You are right about the temptation to get lined up with rebels without a cause. There is something attractive and comforting about the young kids that are going off into non-violent resistance with the same kind of enthusiasm I used to have myself in the thirties for left-wing action. But this too may be a great illusion. I trust your experience...
In a word, I have many doubts myself about all this. It seems to be largely self-deception. Yet to the best of my ability to judge, I feel that what I have done so far was necessary. Perhaps it was not done well. Perhaps it was naïve. Undoubtedly I have not said the last word, nor has all that I have said been perfectly objective and well balanced...
Meanwhile, I enjoy the spring rains (and there have been a lot of them) and am getting ready to do my usual planting of tree seedlings for reforestation.
Keep well, and thanks for all your advice and for your understanding. I repeat that I value both.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
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