The Truth of the Work Itself

An excerpt from Thomas Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist. Thanks to Bill Boyle, a radical discipleship comrade in metro Detroit, for passing this along.

You are fed up with words, and I don’t blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated with ideals and with causes. This sounds heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to be engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make the meaning be there again by magic. Going through this kind of reaction helps you to guard against this. Your system is complaining of too much verbalizing, and it is right.

You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has  to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. the range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, as you yourself mention in passing, It is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

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