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Conclusions and Opinions – A Reflection

January 21, 2020

Today has been a day of meetings, worship preparation and reflection. It is also a day of travel as we await our flight to Minnesota. I look forward to the time with folks from my Alma Mater Seminary as we explore the possibility of post graduate studies. As regular readers of my blog might imagine, Thomas Merton has a lot to do with that.

I have been having lots of conversations with a variety of folks lately about the challenges of technology (yes, I am writing this on my iPhone while we wait for our plane to arrive and then board!) and the 24/7 constant barrage of “news” on the television and internet.

When I first went on Active Duty with the Air Force in November of 1990, Operation Desert Shield was in full swing following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990. As the drumbeat of war grew louder, the news cycle and even books being churned out by a certain part of the religious sector (imagine the Apocalypse and End Times) were at a fever pitch. This was the beginning of the 24/7 news cycle.

It has only gotten worse as the decades have rolled by. “News Reporters” (I use the term loosely) all of a sudden had to fill the cycle and so they would go on and on and on and on… you get the picture. Everyone wanted their 15 minutes of fame and the opportunity to share their opinion with the world.

This really hit a fever pitch on September 11th, 2001. The loop of the second plane crashing into the Twin Towers was on continuous loop as the “talking heads” drones on and on. While I was working with the Security Forces Group I was assigned to as a Chaplain Instructor to figure out how to secure the base from attack, our spouses and family members were glued to the TV.

I remember my wife at that time calling me in an absolute panic. She was glued to the TV and watching the continuous loop and listening to the media. I asked her to shut the TV off and be ready for our son to get home from school. At school my son was hearing all of the commentary from students and teachers as they tried to process what had just happened.

I think now about Merton and his quest for solitude. The media has only become louder and more opinionated. In the midst of it all, I can imagine him telling me to “throw that damned phone and television out the window!”

The news cycle is dysfunctional in my opinion. Right now the focus is on the Impeachment trial in the Senate. A couple of weeks ago it was on Iran and Iraq. But does the media focus (or we the people) on places like Puerto Rico where earthquakes and hurricanes have decimated a country (and a part of the US!)?

My point in all of this is that for me it is difficult to get through the smoke and mirrors… the opinions of “authorities” on the news… the Social Media nightmare… it is hard to wade through it all and find any semblance of truth or actual facts.

As I was reading the book The Intimate Merton which contains selected portions of his journals (six volumes in total); I came across this entry from March 2nd, 1966.

A flash of sanity: the momentary realization that there is no need to come to certain conclusions about persons, events, conflicts, trends, even trends toward evil and disaster, as if from day to day and even from moment to moment I had to know and declare (at least to myself) that this is so and so, this is good, this is bad. We are heading for a “new era” or we are heading for destruction… Whereas to be in it is to seek truth in my own life and action, moving where movement is possible and keeping still when movement is unnecessary, realizing that things will continue to define themselves and that the judgments and mercies of God will clarify themselves and will be more clear to me if I am silent and attentive, obedient to His will, rather than constantly formulating statements in this age which is smothered in language, in meaningless and inconclusive debate in which, in the last analysis, nobody listens to anything except what agrees with his own prejudices.

If I am silent and attentive, obedient to God’s will, rather than constantly formulating statements in this age which is smothered in language, in meaningless and inclusive debate in which, in the last analysis, nobody listens to anything except what agrees with his or her own prejudices! Wow! Merton sure speaks a truth we need to hear today.

Silent and attentive… listening for God’s voice in the midst of the chaos… the gentle whisper of God, not the earthquake or firestorm as described in the story of Elijah. 1 Kings 19:9-13

Father Louis (Louis, his monastic name which was given to him when he took his monastic vows), teach us to embrace the silence and to discern God’s call and who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do as instruments of your peace.

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