November 10

Today's quotation:

Self-conquest is really self-surrender.  Yet before
we can surrender ourselves we must become ourselves.
For no one can give up what he does not possess.

Thomas Merton

Today's Meditation:

In so few words, Thomas has given us two very difficult concepts to consider.  Is mastering ourselves ("self-conquest") really a matter of surrendering ourselves to life?  Evidence seems to say that it is, that the truly successful people in the world, the truly happy people in the world, are those who are able to learn to go with the flow instead of fighting the current, who are able to accept life as it is without trying constantly to change it in ways that they see as important.  We can't control the world, so we might as well accept it and deal with it on its terms.

Secondly, he claims that we don't possess ourselves.  We haven't become ourselves, but we continue to be someone other than ourselves.  And until we become ourselves, how can we give that up?

His logic is difficult to accept, for it says that first of all, we must become ourselves.  That will take effort and time and introspection and insight.  And once we become ourselves, we must surrender that self if we're going to be masters of our own destinies, if we're to become the beings we were meant to be.  So we go through all the work to become ourselves only to give it up.

But life is about seeming contradictions, isn't it?  Life isn't about easy answers and no risk or failure or trials.  While it seems contradictory to say that self-conquest actually is self-surrender, it also seems contradictory that we make anti-venoms from the actual venom from a snake or insect.  Life's seeming contradictions are often its greatest and most beautiful rules, and the fact that we have to find ourselves in order to give up ourselves is very ironic, but very real.  Our greatest triumph would be to trust life completely with our destinies, but we can't reach that point at all if we don't even know who we are.

Questions to consider:

How do you feel about the idea of surrendering yourself to life?

What would it take for you to be able to become yourself?

If you do become yourself, what do you plan to do with that self?

For further thought:

We find by losing.  We hold fast
by letting go.  We become something
new by ceasing to be something old.


Frederick Buechner

  

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