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Modern Life and Activism

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, shared this many years ago. It resonates even more in 2013 as we find ourselves entrenched in busy lives and struggle to find our way out of the activism and overwork. He suggested it is a form of violence on ourselves that does not let us find restful moments. The more inner peace we have the more we can share it with others. We host ourselves first and others feel invited into the banquet that results.

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence … [and that is] activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.

The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work [and life] fruitful.”


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

25 responses »

  1. I find Merton inspiring and challenging. I would tend to agree with these statements of his. But then I wonder about the limits of his use of that loaded term “violence” in this case. There’s plenty in our world worthy of that term. Overworking to help others is very low on my imaginary list of applicability for that term.

    • I think he would agree with both of us on that last point. He was very concerned with social justice issues and maintained a written dialogue with Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others engaged in civil rights of various forms. I always take his point to be that if we let go of some of the busyness of life we see those things that need to be seen as real issues. Like you, I find something new, challenging, and inspiring every time I read him. He was so contemporary for today despite passing away almost a 1/2 century ago.

  2. Hi Ivan: My post can relate to your post. I briefly talked about smiling and starting the day with a routine and with a smile. Visit when you have a chance. Thanks! -Ilene

  3. Wow, nothing new under the sun…

  4. This post gives me food for thought, for sure. thanks for posting.

  5. This is a good argument for “letting go.” Modern life seeks to use and abuse us, suck all our money, energy and time out of us before throwing our broken body upon the rocks of ruin.

  6. Kaufman's Kavalkade

    I do agree to a large degree.

    There are certain things I will not tolerate around me without speaking up about it, racism for example. And that’s in person or on the net. I was raised to not be afraid to express my own opinion.

    And I think the “drama is best avoided” advice is wrong when it’s hate being expressed.

    But when you are shrill activists you do damage to your own message as you become obsessed.

    So I try to speak softly, but carry a large quill as it were. And at least try to use humor in what I’m saying.

    Great post Ivon. Thank you.

    • You are welcome. It is interesting as Thomas Merton would have agreed with you about stepping up about the inequities in life. He felt that often these were overlooked because we are consumed with busyness. I am like you. There are things worthy of standing up for and social injustice is a broad rubric for that to happen.

  7. Good Post.
    Unceasing commitments exactly Succumb to Violence.
    One engages in such a way looses Vigor and appropriate manner of dealing the issues.

  8. So on pointe for me today. That, and the reblogged poem and prayer. Some days, you just see what you need. Great post(s). 🙂

  9. Great point. We are made to rest. Striking the right balance is the hard part.


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