Timeless Advice For Today’s Activists (Forest, Merton, Hahn)

Timeless advice for today’s activists.

Thomas Merton’s Letter to a Young Activist » Jim and Nancy Forest is an essay discussing a set of letters between Jim Forest and Thomas Merton during the Vietnam War.

you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

That last sentence became for me one of the most important insights that I ever received from Merton: “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.” I know it by heart and recite it often. It sums up incarnational theology. Words and slogans and theories are not nearly as important as how we see and relate to each other — the relationships we build — and not only with friends but with adversaries. In the context of peace work, it suggests getting to know, as best we can, the people and cultures being targeted by our weapons.

More — Christianity Meets Buddhism

I originally came upon this essay in a Buddhist book, Margaret Wheatley’s “So Far From Home”, and have always been curious about why she quotes a Catholic essay as the basis for her book.

It turns out that Jim Forest, a Catholic, spent a lot of time with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist. In fact Forest toured Nhat Hahn around the US for a while. Here are 4 essays that discuss his work and time with Thich Nhat Hanh. Super interesting.

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