Thursday, 5 December 2013

Morissey versus Merton

Dear 'old' Morissey is quite the poet and dare I say 'mystic'. His self esteem is bordering on the malignant with his insistence upon his recently released autobiography coming out under the imprint of Penguin Classics. He certainly takes himsef and life seriously. So when he appeared on Desert Island Discs a couple of years ago, in response to Kirsty Youngs', "Who do you feel yourself to be?"
"..I have absolutely no idea. I really do not. Life leads me...I follow it...I think I see poetry in everything and I see sadness in everything, and I take that and I carry it with me and that's quite difficult......life is terribly serious and I think it's much better if you face it head on."

At first reading one might expect a Christian believer like me to agree with him. But I have to say that I find his words just a little unbalanced. A more nuanced and helpful comment comes from the most unlikely source of Thomas Merton, who was somewhat of a Christian mystic himself. Writing about the relationship between a believer and his or her spiritual director (I guess I would call it , 'pastor'),  he writes,

'It often happens as a matter of fact, that so called 'pious' persons take their 'spiritual life' with a certain kind of seriousness. We should certainly be serious in our search for God-nothing is more serious than that. But we ought not to be constantly observing our own efforts at progress and paying exaggerated attention to 'our spiritual life'......The danger is to want a spiritual director who will confirm our hope of finding pleasure in ourselves and in our virtue, rather than finding one who will strip us of our self-love and show us how to get free from pre-occupation with ourselves and our own petty concerns, and  give themselves to God and to the church.'

Tim Keller talks about the blessing of self-forgetfulness in a great sermon here. As Tim says,
Few things in this world are as self-focused as the human ego. Every triumph and every slight has the potential to send us either into pride or despondency. Yet, in this passage from 1 Corinthians (3.21-4.7), the Apostle Paul shows us another way: a way where we forget ourselves to the point where we not only cease caring what others think, but where we even fail to care what we think of ourselves. Instead, we rest and rejoice in what God thinks of us in Christ.
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