Or is any attempt an exercise in futility? I for one have hope, it’s not going to be easy mind you, I just know from experience that reflecting on our error and finding redeeming qualities in our adversary is going to be uncomfortable. That is in my opinion and the reflections of others is a way forward.
I am at it again, reading from one from my favorite teachers. This time it is a book which contains a series of notes, opinions, experiences and reflections. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander . I have found a piece here in the chapter called Truth and Violence: An Interesting Era.
“We are living under a tyranny of untruth which confirms itself in power and establishes a more and more total control over men in proportion as they convince themselves they are resisting error.“
“Our submission to plausible and useful lies involves us in greater and more obvious contradictions, and to hide these from ourselves we need greater and ever less plausible lies. The basic falsehood is the lie that we are totally dedicated to truth and that we can remain dedicated to truth in a manner is at the same time honest and exclusive: that we have a monopoly of all truth, just as our adversary of the moment has the monopoly of all error.“
“We then convince ourselves that we cannot preserve our purity of vision and our inner sincerity if we enter into dialogue with the enemy, for he will corrupt us with his error. We believe, finally, that truth cannot be preserved except by destruction of the enemy–for, we have identified him with error, to destroy him is to destroy error. The adversary, of course, has exactly the same thoughts about us and exactly the same basic policy by which he defends the “truth”. He has identified us with dishonesty, insincerity and untruth. He believes that, if we are destroyed, nothing will be left but truth.“
This is what my perception is from my perspective. That we’re ignoring our own error, focusing on the error in our adversary and claiming to be virtuous in our position. Merton writes earlier on that we really don’t want the truth, we just want enough evidence to prove we’re right discounting all evidence to the contrary. He continues with a way to reconcile, however unlikely it seems to me that in today’s environment, this will even be given consideration.
“If we really sought truth we would begin slowly and laboriously to divest ourselves one by one of all our coverings of fiction and delusion: or at least we would desire to do so, for mere willing cannot enable us to effect it. On the contrary, the one who can best point out our error, and help us to see it, is the adversary whom we wish to destroy. This is perhaps why we wish to destroy him. So, too, we can help him to see his error and that is why he wants to destroy us.”
“In the long run, no one can show another the error that is within him, unless the other is convinced that his critic first sees and loves the good that is within him. So while we are perfectly willing to tell our adversary he is wrong, we will never be able to do so effectively until we ourselves can appreciate where he is right. And we can never accept his judgment on our errors until he gives evidence that he really appreciates our own peculiar truth. Love, love only, love of our deluded fellow man as he he actually is, in his delusion and in his sin: this alone can open the door to truth. As long as we do not have this love, as long as this love is not active and effective in our lives (for words and good wishes will never suffice) we have no real access to the truth. At least not to moral truth.”
I am astounded and thrilled at the same time how incredibly poignant Thomas Merton’s words are today. It saddens me though that the truth may be that demolition precedes renovation and that we’re indeed headed for even more tumultuous days ahead. I am at peace though because I abide in the ultimate Love.
I myself as I am naturally am not capable of such love. I have found though that such love is readily available to me and all who wish to be captivated by it can find if you have exhausted all your human will and are ready to surrender to the greatest news in history.