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