Thomas Merton: Before We Can Become Gods We Must Be Men

Today I would like to share with you a quote from Thomas Merton, in which he laments the rise of a modern, technology-based society.  This quote is taken from Seasons of Celebration.

I totally feel him here.  I believe that we have lost an awful lot in making the choice, as a society at large, to place ourselves almost entirely at the mercy of technology.  Many of the technological advances which have made our lives significantly easier over the last few centuries have, I believe, had the unintended effect of making us less human.  When you can hop a plane and travel from one side of the country to the other in only a few hours, you lose touch with the reality of the tremendous distance between here and there.  When you have a large SUV with an excellent air-conditioning or heating system to take you wherever you want to go, you lose awareness of the world outside except as you can see it through your windshield.  Is this the way we were created to live?  Somehow I am not convinced of it.

Specifically, Merton laments the loss of awareness of the seasonal pattern of our world.  Humanity’s life no longer ebbs and flows in seasonal cycles; instead it is “a linear flight into nothingness”.

At any rate, here is Merton:

The modern pagan, the child of technology or the “mass man,” does not even enjoy the anguish of dualism or the comfort of myth. His anxieties are no longer born of eternal aspiration, though they are certainly rooted in a consciousness of death. “Mass man” is something more than fallen. He lives not only below the level of grace, but below the level of nature—below his own humanity. No longer in contact with the created world or with himself, out of touch with the reality of nature, he lives in the world of collective obsessions, the world of systems and fictions with which modern man has surrounded himself. In such a world, man’s life is no longer even a seasonal cycle. It’s a linear flight into nothingness, a flight from reality and from God, without purpose and without objective, except to keep moving, to keep from having to face reality….

To live in Christ we must first break away from this linear flight into nothingness and recover the rhythm and order of man’s real nature. Before we can become gods we must first be men. For man in Christ, the cycle of the seasons is something entirely new. It has become a cycle of salvation. The year is not just another year, it is the year of the Lord—a year in which the passage of time itself brings us not only the natural renewal of spring and the fruitfulness of an earthly summer, but also the spiritual and interior fruitfulness of grace. The life of the flesh which ebbs and flows like the seasons and tends always to its last decline is elevated and supplanted by a life of the spirit which knows no decrease, which always grows in those who live with Christ in the liturgical year. “For though the outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. . . . For we know if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven.” (II Cor. 4:16; 5:1)