Friday, February 20, 2009

Emptiness



Thomas Merton calls the believer toward emptiness, his mystic leanings showing like a slip. However, Merton's love of emptiness by no means implies vacancy. He considers that if one empties themself of self, the natural outcome is inclusion of all others. Thus the irony of empty meaning full. Come on, you gotta love that.

My goodness, I didn't realize you all were in here.

11 comments:

Rose Emily said...

SOOO true...this is exactly what God has been teaching me lately!

Pig Woman said...

Absent the philopsophy gene, I need plain English and practicalities. So how the heck do you empty self of self and why do you want to do it? Is he talking about eliminating all your wants, desires and needs so you can concentrate on filling everyone else's? Or is he talking about something else entirely? Because, frankly, the best I can do in that arena is make a conscious decision to put other's needs ahead of mine. I can say no to self. But how do you empty self of self. I don't know. The whole thing sounds scary to me. You know how I hate a crowd.

Goat said...

Indeed. The practical side vs the poetics. Practically speaking you are absolutely right--you can no more rid your self of self than not look at yourself when you pass a mirror. God made us each inticately special and different and each self exactly how he wanted--I am most certainly not intending to snub that act of God's love. I don't see Merton as saying you have to rid yourself of self--the idea is to not focus on ths special self (be less selfish, which always was more of a problem for me than you). What Merton said just gives me a little incentive to give it a try. Ohhh you mean I GET something out of this.OK then. Makes being unselfish actually selfish. And so the irony goes.

Daniel and Cerissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel and Cerissa said...

Hi Pig Woman (no offense… that’s your name hehe). Daniel here. I read your post and thought I would post a quick comment.

As I see it… the key is motivation.

In the garden when our first parents ate the forbidden fruit… the effect was devastating. The offence was punishable (thus we need Jesus) but it’s easy to overlook the overarching effect on humanity. In choosing self over God… Self was born.

Now in this fallen state… we are solely motivated by self. Everything we do is motivated by self (sounds kind of harsh but it's true). Another way to put it is… in any decision I will always do what I want to do most. Even if that means doing something that is apparently selfless from an outside perspective. That is the state humanity is left in after the fall. We are motivated completely and totally by what we personally want.

What is the answer? A new birth.

After we are “born again” (so to speak) we are left with two natures… one motivated by self… the other (having encountered Jesus) wants to please God… (why God allows these two natures to coexist... for a time… is another theological discussion).

So from a pragmatic standpoint… I would say… “emptying one’s self of self” is really just daily humbling ourselves. Emptying ourselves of wanting to please ourselves… and focusing on pleasing God.

I believe if we wake up in the morning and pray… “God help me to want to please you… because half of me doesn’t want to…” God will be faithful in helping us empty ourselves of self.

Now I would clarify and say… I don’t believe emptying ourselves of self has anything to do with emptying ourselves of who God made us to be. Rather… it is self that perverts our desires such that we want to be something we can never be… the center of attention… the all in all… God. But… as we empty ourselves of self (that desire we have to be God)… we really find who we were made to be… a uniquely designed child of God.

Anyway that's how I see it… I wrote that quickly so I hope it makes sense.

Pig Woman said...

Oh, yes,yes! Perfect sense. Thank you so much! So then what about the part of the natural outcome of emptying self being inclusion of all others? Can you plain speak that part to me? Your mom lives in the right side of her brain. I live in the left. I love it when people can interpret these things for me so I can understand. Oh, and by the way, I am quite proud to be called "Pig Woman". So much more dignified than "Goat", doncha think? hah

Daniel and Cerissa said...

So who wins in a fight between a Goat and a Pig? I’m not sure where I would put my money.

To be honest… I’ve never read Thomas Merton… so I don’t know if I agree or disagree with his view point. However, I do agree with the premise Goat posted. That being… the end result of emptying ourselves of self is the inclusion of others (i.e. empty actually is full).

The way I picture this is the inclusion of others is really more of a secondary result (but is true never the less).

As I mentioned before… fallen man does not have the capacity to be motivated by any thing other than what is personally desired most. So in the fallen state we really can’t truly care about other people. We observe what looks like people caring for other people. But the motivation behind it is… their caring actions are motivated by the fact that they want to care for a given person… because it makes them feel good, or they feel bad if they didn’t, etc.

Thus… in the fallen state… our actions towards other people are just variables in whether we feel good or bad on a given day. Life is all about me… self. (I don’t want to devalue the kind actions of someone in the fallen state. I believe there is still value in actions motivated by self… but that’s another discussion.)

However, with the new nature … we now have the ability to be motivated by what God wants. So what does God want? Obviously that’s a big question we can’t fully answer. But one thing we know is God loves people. So one of the secondary results of our new nature (one that is motivated by pleasing God) is that we love people. Not because of what they can do for us… but rather because God loves them.

So bottom line… as I see it… we are freed to love others in a way we never could. The more we can empty ourselves of self… the more we are able to really love people.

I’m not sure if that is exactly what Goat is alluding to… but that is how I see it. Goat… is that what you were thinking?

Goat said...

Your bottom line sums it up utterly and absolutely. I've almost added more three times, but really, what you've said stands alone.

Ok, back to stirring up more confusion.

Craig and Bethany said...

I guess I just think of it like the legacy of self is me with my eyes closed. Then I open them and there you all are! Empty myself and the world enlarges.

LOVE all the discussion!

Goat said...

Ahhh, said like a poet heh heh heh.

Pig Woman said...

Thank you Dan! Thinking of having two natures really helps me in a whole lot of ways-- kinda like having two selves. It just pictures better for me than talking spirit and flesh all the time. I love the way you put it too, Bethany. So simple.