Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain

I’m thoroughly enjoying reading this autobiography. Here’s another example of why:

“At Hyeres I had to wait a couple of days before the money arrived and when it did, the letter that went with it was filled with sharp reproofs. Tom, my guardian, took occasion of my impracticality to call attention to most of my other faults as well, and I was very humiliated. So after a month of my precious liberty, I received my first indication that my desires could never be absolute: they must necessarily be conditioned and modified by contacts and conflicts with the desires an interests of others. This was something that it would take me a long time to find out and indeed in the natural order alone I would never really get to understand it. I believed in the beautiful myth about having a good time so long as it does not hurt anybody else. You cannot live your own pleasure and your own convenience without inevitably hurting and injuring the feelings and the interests of practically everybody you meet.”

Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain, p. 114

The Goodness of Knowing Our Badness

From Desiring God
From Rousseau to the Tom and Jerry Cartoons, Wheaton English Professor, Alan Jacobs, traces a “cultural history” of Original Sin, the name of his recent 304 page book. The most auspicious and provocative lines in Matt Jenson’s review in Books and Culture are these:

Original sin’s deniers like to claim that the doctrine does bad things, or at least discourages us from doing good things. It deals death. So they tell us. But over and over in Jacobs’ account, we meet well-intentioned characters, only to find their happier, gentler anthropologies turning sour, leading to (or at least abetting) anarchy, eugenics, despair. Perhaps the greatest irony in this history is the discovery that knowledge of original sin gives life—by revealing us to ourselves, yes, but also by grounding a sense of universal human kinship…. Truly a revolutionary thought—that the roots of our common humanity might be found, not in our dignity or even our potential, but in our depravity.