Gelassenheit

Gelassenheit – letting go – not being encumbered by systems, words, projects. And yet being free in systems, projects. Not trying to get away from all action, all speech, but free, unencumbering Gelassen in this or that action. Error of self-conscious contemplatives: to get hung up on a certain kind of non-action which is an imprisonment, a stupor, the opposite of Gelassenheit. Actually quietism is incompatible with true inner freedom. The furden of this stupid and enforced “quiet” – the self sitting heavily on its own head.

Still thinking of K.C., who wrote from Cincinnati. From a certain point of view my letter to her was a scandal. I was in effect saying, “Don’t listen for the voice of God, God will not speak to you.” Yet this had to be said. Today, for a certain type of person, deceptive. It is the wrong kind of listening: listening for a limited message, an objective sound, a sensible meaning. Actually one decides one’s life by responding to a word that is not well defined, easily explicable, safely accounted for. One decides to love in the face of an unaccountable void, and from the void comes an unaccountable truth. By this truth one’s existence is sustained in peace – until the truth is too firmly grasped and too clearly accounted for. Then one is relying on words, i.e., on ones’ own understanding and one’s own ingenuity in interpreting existence and its “signs.” The one is lost and has to be found once again in the patient Void.

– Thomas Merton, journal entry, November 13, 1966

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