STRUGGLING TO THE LIGHT
"Riches give men the power to commit all kinds of sin." (St.Thomas Aquinas). Here, Aquinas underlines our daily dilemma. "Riches" refers to politicians' greed for power; our individual self agrandisement so leading us into an unbalanced pattern of decision making, whether over the purchase of material goods leading to addictive consequences, or distancing ourselves from any sense of compassion and social responsibility. It is like sitting on a hillside in the warm sunlight, looking down into a dark wooded valley, and having no sense of curiosity or connection, because we feel, ALRIGHT! But Aquinas goes on to point out that all is not lost. We were born with a soul. The spirit of a creator God lives within each one of us, but the difficulty is remembering that, in a world of enormous change, complexity and temptations. So we must try to concentrate on practicing the Cardinal Virtues as much as we can - Wisdom; Justice; Courage; Moderation. Each of these are natural endowments that we carry within us. Using them in a holistic way as we explore each day, even each minute in our reflective moments, will power up our internal and external energies. Existentialists talk about Freedom, but their adoring of that concept, can lead us into the dangers of Relativism, and consequent Darkness. To be truly happy, we need a framework to steer our way through the sometimes stormy seas. Aquinas is reminding us that our natural goal in life is to be happy, but the quality of that happiness is the essential question. Unity produces love and hence happiness. But we have of course to be aware of those who attack those concepts. This requires substantial patience and recognition of the good of the other, even if it is hidden below an Everest of whirling dark cloud.But it is worth the effort. Understanding,and seeking the deep causes of darkness, whether in ourselves or within others, brings us to the Light.
Thank you. Tom Baxter
" Acedia is sadness about an inward, eternal good. It is an oppressive sorrow that so weighs upon one's mind, that one wants to do nothing. " (St.Thomas Aquinas). - "It comes from a shrinking of the mind, from that to which we should cleave as a duty, namely to the goodness of God." Here Aquinas highlights a very common dilemma, do we walk on the other side of the street ignoring the person (s) in trouble, or like the Good Samaritan, do we cast aside our reservations and centre our actions on relievlng the hurt of another. To make that first step ideally should be spontaneous, but often times, our own history of childhood; upbringing; current pressures, slow down our intervention, even stopping us. The sadness comes within us, because we know instinctively that we should have done something to help, and possibly it was feasible, but we did not. To reduce that problem in the future, we must become more aware of our own divinely gifted nature; of the responsibilities that flow from that: most importantly that we are NOT OBJECTS. In social /political terms this is the redefining of community as not only just our own town, but the complexities of being part of a global community. The Jesuit philosopher and paleontoligist, said that national communities will eventually coalesce into one global unity. Then there will be evolving dynamic of a newly energised Common Good. This, he maintained is all part of God's plan for the world. It is as though we are slowly coming out of a psychological cave, into the sunlight; a re-birth. " A vast, slow struggle of movement towards and upwards to the light. Born of a cosmic stream ours is a cosmic responsibility." (Teilhard). All this requires careful, patient reflection on the quality of our own actions. But it also opens the door to Hope.
Thank you. Tom Baxter
ODE TO ST.THOMAS AQUINAS
Here Thomas Merton a Cistercian monk, reflects on Aquinas: "The stars put out their pale opinions, one by one, While the black-friar breaks the Truth, his Host, Among his friends the simple Substances: for thus he fathered minds to reason's peace." Aquinas had a marvellous gift of being able to bring a veritable cathedral of thought and consequent reflection, to an astonishingly wide spectrum of subject matter. Used today as a reference point in such things as psychology; dilemmas of peace and justice; theology; philosophy; social and business ethics to name but a few. As always we are much concerned with how to be happy, a subject that certainly interested Aquinas. "In all things there is an appetite for completion, the final end to which each moves marks its own perfect and fulfilling good". So it is the good that is God, beyond which no higher or more satisfying element can be found. Yet it is obviously not so simple as that. We all lack sufficient clarity of where we are going in life, and of course some extreme examples, such as terrorism make the point. To deal with a terrorist a dialogue is needed. " The object of the will, that is the human appetite, is the good without reserve, just as the object of mind is the True without reserve." So it is the starting line for moving forward towards a clearer, deeper appreciation of how to change our or their, life stance. Yes, a slow process, but essential for behavioural change. "Our good is to live according to reason, and our evil is to live outside it." Aquinas opens up a plethora of opportunities for dialogue with even the most evil and recalcitrant person or group. "See the high birds, they do play in wheeling silences, defining in the perfect sky, the bounds of (here below) our solitude." (Merton.)
Thank you. Tom Baxter
THE SILENT CAULDRON of AUGUST 6TH.& 8TH.
This last weekend was a moment for deep reflection on the 70th.anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic disaster.It was the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton who wrote : "When the hot globe shrivels and cracks and uninhibited atoms resolve, Earth and water, fruit and flowers, body and animal soul, All the blue stars come tumbling down. Beauty and ugliness, love and hate, Wisdom and politics are all alike undone. Toward that fiery day we run like crabs with our bad tempered armour on... O great dishonourable beast, War. Cockroach and millionaire, Snake- eyed cousin of pestilence. Why do we dance for you, Why do we dance to exhaustion? " Here Merton summarises so well not only the whirlpool of the physical chaos of August 1945 in Japan as the two atomic bombs were lobbed down onto unsuspecting civilians - with casualties at the time of approximately 200,000, rising to an estimated 700,000 over the ensuing years as radiation effects kicked in. Merton also raises the question of our unfailing addiction to war as a solution for our problems. It is of course in part because of an unquestioning view of life's values; a bowing of our heads towards power within ourselves as well as in others." Sinners must be loved with charity as human beings capable of eternal happiness, but because their sin is opposed to God, we must hate them being sinners." (St.Thomas Aquinas"). As Aquinas emphasises we can love the sinner,( the politicians who ordered the bombs to be dropped), but we can and must demand justice over the act itself. He explains that we can prefer to sin and so offend God, rather than be deprived of our pleasure. In the case of the atomic bombing, the pleasure came from an act of choice from a preceding sin. In other words, the habit of war, the habit of the mind set of those who did these dastardly deeds on August 6th. and 9th.1945. As Oppenheimer the atomic scientist said post 1945, "now we scientists know what sin really is."
Thank you. Tom Baxter.