Friday, November 30, 2012

Bartlebesians

Also from Peter France's book:

The morality of withdrawal from social and political activism had much concerned Merton, who had made the decision to move from activist to contemplative:

Withdrawal from other men can be a special form of love for them. It should never be a rejection of man or of his society. But it may well be a quiet and humble refusal to accept the myths and fictions with which the social life cannot help but be full—especially today. To despair of the illusions and façades which man builds around himself is certainly not to despair of man. On the contrary, it may be a sign of love and hope. For when we love someone we refuse to tolerate what destroys and maims his personality. If we love mankind, can we blind ourselves to mankind's predicament? You will say: we must do something about his predicament. But there are some whose vocation it is to realize that they, at least, cannot help in any overt social way. Their contribution is a mute witness, a secret and even invisible expression of love which takes the form of their own option for solitude in preference to the acceptance of social fictions. For is not our involvement in fiction, particularly in political and demagogic fiction, an implicit confession that we despair of man, and even of God?

Sounds like "scratch a pessimist, find a disappointed idealist," or "withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy." It's a pretty rationalization, but, nah. I'd go with Bartleby's "I would prefer not to."

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