Thomas Merton on results

Every time I contemplate a direct action, I run it through this quote, and every time I go into a direct action I read it before I do it. It’s been incredibly meaningful again this week with our Shoalwater Bay actions. It’s a section from a letter that Thomas Merton wrote to Jim Forest at a time when the peace movement seemed to be stalling, and Jim was feeling dispirited. It is as relevant now as it was then:

“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself…So the next step in the process is for you to see that your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work and your witness. You are using it so to speak to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more, and gradually you will be freed from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.”

I know that so often I find myself trying to do what is pragmatic, what will achieve results. I find myself building an identity in my peace work; often to protect myself against nothingness, or to prove myself. This quote reminds me of the folly of those approaches. And so, as we stood at the fence, immediately before we entered the base, after having read this many times in previous days, I turned to the other four and said,”We do this because of love. Because God first loves us, and loves them.” It was such a centred, sacred moment, and I knew we’d left all of that behind, open to “the power that will work through you without your knowing it”.

Lots more to come on the Shoalwater Bay stuff, but wanted to put this in first.

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