I love the writings of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who lived in America during the post-nuclear cold war. He wrote prolifically on topics including personal sanctity, nature’s praise of God (of which humans contribute the most conscious, but no means solo, voices), and the responsibility of all people of peace, and faith, to protect the earth from war.
Today, I read some of his political reflections. During a divisive US elections race between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, after another test of North Korea’s nuclear powers, in a time of deadly political turmoil in so many regions of the world, it’s appropriate to reflect on Merton’s exhortations, and prayers, for peace. I couldn’t say it better than he did:
“It seems to me that the basic problem is not political, it is apolitical and human. One of the most important things to do is to keep cutting deliberately through political lines and barriers and emphasizing the fact that these are largely fabrications and that there is another dimension, a genuine reality, totally opposed to the fictions of politics: the human dimension which politics pretend to arrogate entirely to themselves. This is the necessary first step along the long way toward the perhaps impossible task of purifying humanizing and somehow illuminating politics themselves. Is this possible? At least we must try to hope in that, otherwise all is over. But politics as they now stand are hopeless.”
“Hence the desirability of a manifestly non-political witness, non-aligned, non-labeled, fighting for the reality of [humans] and [their] rights and needs in the nuclear world in some measure against all the alignments” (Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, p. 123, quoting The Hidden Ground of Love, p. 272.)
As Merton read, wrote, reflected, and prayed, he came to believe that the most productive work for peace for his generation was to prepare the ground for ours, making it more receptive and fertile to peace and social justice. May we reap the fruits of Merton and his compatriots' labours today, by intentionally rising above rhetoric to the common reality that we need peace, and need to achieve it through peaceful means, in heart, word, and deed. I know Thomas Merton would agree.