Thomas Merton on Technology
by Bob Schwartz
I am ambivalent about the benefits and effects of unstoppable technological progress. It is nearly a force of nature. Rain helps our plants to thrive, our food to grow, our rivers to flow, our thirst to be quenched. But it can also overwhelm and destroy, so that we seek shelter from it in a flood or hurricane. Still, I wouldn’t trade technology in, not all of it, not easily. I am just wary and watchful.
This is from Thomas Merton’s journals. He lived as a monk in a handmade hermitage on the grounds of the Abbey of our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky. It is a tiny building that up until 1965 did not have electricity:
“At last the electric line is coming to my hermitage!”
Yesterday in the morning, when I went out for a breath of air before my novice conference, I saw men working on the hillside beyond the sheep barn. At last the electric line is coming to my hermitage! All day they were working on the holes, digging and blasting the rock with small charges, young men in yellow helmets, good, eager, hardworking guys with machines. I was glad of them and of American technology, pitching in to bring me light, as they would for any farmer in the district. It was good to feel part of this, which is not to be despised, but is admirable. (Which does not mean that I hold any brief for the excess of useless developments in technology.)
Thomas Merton Journals, February 16, 1965, V.206–7
More posts about Merton:
Merton: Events and Pseudo-Events
For Me to Be a Saint Means to Be Myself
One of my icons Read the Seven Story Mountain. He and Flannery O’Connor were like peas and carrots
The question is: who is the peas and who is the carrots? As a devoted follower of Merton’s work, consider visiting the Abbey of Gethsemani http://www.monks.org/, just outside of Bardstown, Kentucky. You can’t visit Merton’s hermitage–too many visitors and it is still used by the community–but you can sit in the church, listen to the Hours, walk the countryside, and even stay as a retreat guest. An awesome experience. (Bardstown is also the Bourbon capital of the world, if you are inclined that way.) And you can add to this pilgrimage with a visit to the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in nearby Louisville.
Actually, I’ve thought of doing that one day. Peas and carrots? I don’t know how familiar you are with O’Connor’s work. One day I will write about their friendship. They had different ways in living out their
Catholicism. O’Connor was more of a hellfire, damnation and Old Testament kind of gal. I’ll be back with more pontificating soon Thanks :)
Thank you. Pontif-icate away. And speaking of Pontifs, you might like my posts about Pope Francis, the humble radical who somehow has been allowed to lead the Church–much to the consternation of the comfortable establishment.
I will. Pope Francis is the Spirit made manifest. I hope that’s not heretical and haha I don’t go to hell for that
I have several first editions of his books