Thomas Merton on the Perils of Overachieving


This apt quotation from the great contemplative writer Thomas Merton comes to me by way of Bishop Gordon Scruton’s editorial in the June issue of Pastoral Staff, the newsletter of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts:


There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist, fighting for peace by nonviolent means, 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, is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes their work for peace. It destroys their own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of their work because it kills the inner wisdom which makes their work fruitful.

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