A few months ago, I came across this quote from Thomas Merton: On Violence
There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.
The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton
Here it is again in convenient, sharable meme format:
This idea has been nibbling away at me for the past few months. I’d forgotten I wrote about this very thing, even using the same Merton quote, seven years ago. You can read The Violence of Busyness here.
Seven years ago I was in the midst of getting out my memoir’s second edition, correcting the typos that had been missed and learning to use Scrivner at the same time. A rather masochistic combination in hindsight (but then, as I said then, hindsight is never there when you really need it)
Once again, but for very different reasons, I feel Merton’s “rush and pressure of modern life.” I feel, viscerally and often, the demands on my time and the loss of the serenity I so greatly value in my life.
I’ve given away my chickens; surely that counts in my favor. But then we added a puppy to the mix.
Have I succumbed to violence?
I recognize I’m living life at a new, more frenzied pace, and I acknowledge activities I have given up as a result. This is a choice I made, last year; and it will continue another year or two, at least.
My new responsibilities as host and sponsor, committee chair, board member, and puppy owner, are crowding out other roles I’ve loved over the last ten or so years. Like that of writer.
Alas, my blog has fallen victim.
I don’t believe it is merely a matter of shedding obligations. For me, it is a matter of choosing the attitude I bring to each obligation and the space I allow between obligations.
In short, I’ve decided that my blogging must take a back seat; no longer will I hold to a strict weekly schedule. Instead, I’ll post only when I feel I have something new to say, something that might challenge our way of thinking, our accustomed way of seeing the world. That remains my mission, in so many areas of my life.
And I want very much to reconnect to what Merton called that “root of inner wisdom” that makes work worthwhile.
How about you? How do you juggle competing demands on your time and energy? Can you relate to Thomas Merton’s idea as this being a type of violence?
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