Things We Need


By Thomas Merton, from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

The things we really need come to us as only as gifts, and in order to receive them as gifts we have to be open. In order to be open, we have to renounce ourselves, in a sense, we have to die to our image of ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed identity. We have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know as ourselves.
The chronic inability to relax this cramp begets despair. In the end, as we realize more and more that we are knotted upon nothing, that the cramp is a meaningless, senseless, pointless affirmation of nonentity, and we must nevertheless continue to affirm our nothingness over against everything else- our frustration becomes absolute. We become incapable of existing, except as a “no” which we fling in the face of everything. This “no” to everything serves as our painful “yes to ourselves- a makeshift identity which is nothing

3 thoughts on “Things We Need

    1. I agree, at least in part, in that I am still not sure of my purpose, I am grateful, for everything even the anguish and despair, I experience, from my willfulness. I long to be of service and try to make myself available to help. It seems to be right before me, yet just beyond my consciousness.

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