My Love Of What I Own May Be Killing Somebody Somewhere

Therefore, if I don't pretend, like other people, to understand the war, I do know this much: that the knowledge of what is going on only makes it seem desperately important to be voluntarily poor, to get rid of all possessions this instant. I am scared, sometimes, to own anything, even a name, let alone coin, or share in the oil, the munitions, the airplane factories. I am scared to take a proprietary interest in anything, for fear that my love of what I own may be killing somebody somewhere.

--Thomas Merton, from a diary entry during WWII reflecting upon the connections between possessions and complicity in violence worldwide

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8 thoughts on “My Love Of What I Own May Be Killing Somebody Somewhere”

  1. I am weary of the spoils of my ambition.
    I am shackled by the comforts of my couch.
    I wish I had the courage to deny these of myself
    and start store my treasures in the clouds.

    Andrew Peterson

    I have my kids each year look at where their t-shirts are made. Then I tell them the average salary in those counties. How do we stop this?

  2. I grew up in a culture in which unchecked capitalism and war are simply a part of keeping the nation "free and under God". I still have relatives and old friends who, if they read Merton's beautiful, yet haunting words, would sneer and brush them off as "nonsense and pretense"; they would actually find it difficult to believe that anyone could truly be convicted in this way. Most would respond in essence, "He doesn't really believe that; he's just trying to be different".

    I truly admire Merton. I've been reading him for twenty five years, and I clearly see him as one who died to self as the gospel of Jesus demanded. I also see it in the poet, Wendell Berry. And that leads me to this question: "Just how far and how long does a nation or culture have to "safely" keep itself from the Jesus of the gospels while calling itself Christian, before they are no longer defended by, "Well, we have to understand where they have come from"? I also hear it in regards to those who see themselves as "born again and faithful members of the church", yet hold a disdain toward civil rights. And to be honest, I'm tired of hearing it.

  3. I guess if I look past the surface of what is being presented by the media of the situation with ISIL and the involvement of other countries I can see that there is money to be made by a continuous war. But, in relation to what Thomas Merton has written, if I look at the surface level of why other countries want to get involved with the ISIL situation and what is it that I "own" that would make me want to fight back, I guess it would be safety and freedom. And as long as we are made to feel like we "own" safety and freedom then the easier it is to try and justify a war on terror that is presented to us as a threat on "our" safety and freedom. So, as someone who follows Christ and is led to die to self I must be willing to get rid of "my" safety and freedom for His sake.

  4. Even if I own nothing somewhere someone is always dying. Should we not have children because we would be technically responsible for their death....and life?

    If you could end all war would you? IDK...I guess the creator could end all war but instead surrounds himself with it...war in the heavens, war on the earth. Difficult question.

  5. Ahh yes, the classic monkish pass on dirtily ol' humanity; pretending to live at a distance from the messy rest of us as though we're not all breathing the same air. God bless those monks and their tender hearts, but the many of us, "seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil" are also taking proprietary interest in all sorts of hopeful, beautiful, and blessed acts. Standing at too far a distance we'll find ourselves the grouch at the wedding, who won't dance with the bride for fear of spilling punch on her dress. Step back and think hard indeed, consider your actions, and know your limits -- yes and yes. But one way or another we'll all be getting our hands dirty "in what we have done and in what we have failed to do."

  6. Fascinating. I just read your post about "love must get dirty," and marvel at the seeming lack of cognitive dissonance when posting something like this from Merton during the same week.

    The classic error these days seems to be to focus one's attentions only at one side of the ledger: if oil is being used to make military-grade jet fuel, then I must divest from oil lest I be contaminated by its evil. All the while, that same oil is being cracked into the diesel that allows the lowly truck driver to feed his family, whom he sees only once or twice a week.

    Would it be out of school to ask Merton posthumously to get dirty with the rest of us, as Jeremy K has asked?

  7. * 3things


    Three things
    that makes
    flowers bloom -

    and shit *

    Three things
    that cause
    Self to flower

    and shit *

    love is abandoned
    there is no freedom *


    Posted by bob knab

  8. With all due respect, I think you are missing the point. So my challenge to you first, would be to examine your own heart motives, especially in your reply (see your first sentence for example). Is your heart moved by a brothers love for children of the kingdom, or is there a hint of sarcasm? Secondly, I have made it a point to read about the author when reading something they have written. I do this to "see things from their view". My problem, and i would wager it is your too, is that we read others writings from our perspective, which experience has taught me, is fraught with danger as far too often I have looked back on my life and views held, only to see the real motivation driving me was one of self. I would like to believe that this is Merton's challenge, not to us, but to himself (note the tense in which this piece, and in fact the whole book, is written).

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