LENTEN READING 2

YOU CAN MAKE YOUR LIFE WHAT YOU WANT. There are various ways of being happy. Why do we drive ourselves on with illusory demands? Happy only when we conform to something that is said to be a legitimate happiness? An approved happiness? God gives us the freedom to create our own lives, according to His will, that is to say in the circumstances in which He has placed us. But we refuse to be content unless we realize in ourselves a “universal” standard, a happiness hypothetically prescribed and approved for all men of all time, and not just our own happiness. This, at least, is what I do. I am a happy person, and God has given me happiness, but I am guilty about it—as if being happy were not quite allowed, as if everybody didn’t have it within reach somehow or other—and as if I had to justify God Himself by being zealous for something I do not and cannot have—because I am not happy in the same way as Pericles — or Khrushchev.

Still very cold and bright. The best thing about the retreat has been working in the pig barn and then walking back alone, a mile and a half, through the snow. I think I have come to see more clearly and more seriously the meaning, or lack of meaning, in my life. How much I am still the same self-willed and volatile person who made such a mess of Cambridge. That I have not changed yet, down in the depths, or, perhaps yes, I have changed radically somewhere, yet I have still kept some of the old, vain, inconstant, self-centered ways of looking at things. And that the situation I am in now has been given me to change me, if I will only surrender completely to reality as it is given me by God and no longer seek in any way to evade it, even by interior reservations. Here at the hermitage, in deep snow, everything is ordinary and silent. Return to reality and to the ordinary, in silence. It is always there, if you know enough to return to it. What is not ordinary—the tension of meeting people, discussion, ideas. This too is good and real, but illusion gets into it. The unimportant becomes important. Words and images become more important than life. One travels all over vast areas, sitting still in a room, and one is soon tired of so much traveling. I need very much this silence and this snow. Here alone can I find my way because here alone the way is right in front of my face and it is God’s way for me—there really is no other. -- Thomas Merton