Learning to Live

Life consists in learning to live on one’s own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own—be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid.

The purpose of education is to show us how to define ourselves authentically and spontaneously in relation to our world—not to impose a prefabricated definition of the world, still less an arbitrary definition of ourselves as individuals. The world is made up of the people who are fully alive in it: that is, of the people who can be themselves in it and can enter into a living and fruitful relationship with each other in it. The world is, therefore, more real in proportion as the people in it are able to be more fully and more humanly alive: that is to say, better able to make a lucid and conscious use of their freedom. Basically, this freedom must consist first of all in the capacity to choose their own lives, to find themselves on the deepest possible level. A superficial freedom to wander aimlessly here and there, to taste this or that, to make a choice of distractions … is simply a sham. It claims to be a freedom of “choice” when it has evaded the basic task of discovering who it is that chooses. It is not free because it is unwilling to face the risk of self-discovery.

Thomas Merton. “Learning to Live” in Love and Living. Edited by Naomi Burton Stone and

Brother Patrick Hart. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979: 3-4.

There is a lot of truth here for me. How much of today’s media and education actually imposes a “prefabricated definition of the world?” The sad thing is so many readily accept this pre-fab definition as reality and go on living, hustling here and there as though this definition were truth. Maybe it’s always been that way and I’m just now seeing it. I hope I’m living more fully human and alive. This reminds me of a quote from St. Irenaeus, “the glory of God is a human person fully alive.”

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