@jforseth210 A word from a kindred spirit. I hope what follows will be of some use to you, but even if not, you can be reassured that I understand how you feel. You have said you feel the need to write. The writings of contemplatives who did not resign from taking action, living lives of self-sacrifice, motivate me. Today, I’m reading Dag Hammarskjöld’s journal, Markings. Its insights are familiar, lacking in originality. These are reflections from one attempting to live a principled life of true self-oblivion. I copied its opening passage into my own journal. Your post called it to mind. Let us awake, have a care, be men who became what we could and are what we are. This is a life detached from desire. It’s okay to not want to do what you must. We can all do good deeds, but very few of us can think good thoughts. That is what makes it a sacrificial act, the firm foundation of a virtuous life. The etymological root of virtue is strength.

I am being driven forward
Into an unknown land.
The pass grows steeper,
The air colder and sharper.
A wind from my unknown goal
Stirs the strings
Of expectation.
Still the question:
Shall I ever get there?
There where life resounds,
A clear pure note
In the silence.
Smiling, sincere, incorruptible—
His body disciplined and limber.
A man who had become what he could,
And was what he was—
Ready at any moment to gather everything
Into one simple sacrifice.
Tomorrow we shall meet,
Death and I—
And he shall thrust his sword
Into one who is wide awake.
But in the meantime how grievous the memory
Of hours frittered away.” – Dag Hammarskjöld Markings

Read the works of Erik Varden, a Norwegian Trappist monk, last week. Written for a general audience. I’d describe them as reflections from an intensely inward-looking and analytical person, sensitive to life’s cruelties, striving to live by principles. He’s well read in Russian literature and has an interest in classical music, so I found several recommendations for future reading and listening from it. It’s the sort of work you’re glad to read because you can get to know a person who you’d seldom meet in the course of living—I’m unlikely ever to be at a dinner party with a Trappist monk!

What have you all read recently by authors you found interesting or had a connection with?

@Columbkille Thank you for your thoughtful response! I certainly recognize my own experience is just an anecdote, and I appreciate hearing your thoughts. Sorry to hear things are so trying where you are. I agree that this will play out slowly. With sincerity, I will reflect upon your position. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not in a position to be influential on the matter.

I’m a medical student at an elite school that is not in the northeast. The pressure is not as great as I understand it is in the humanities. It is enough for a doctor to avoid offense rather than proclaim from the mountaintops. There is great pressure to view medicine as a political force, and there are teachings in the curriculum on social justice organized longitudinally. However, the implementations have agreed with the best interests of the patient, in my experience. Why can’t the patient afford medication, or why might a patient refuse a treatment or be distrustful are practical questions (though I do think they were addressed prior to this curriculum). And I think knowing the zeitgeist will be important in my professional future, recruiting and maintaining staff, managing conflicts, etc. It has more of an impact, though still not much, on workplace dynamics with co-workers than interactions with patients. To a great degree, I feel bound by my professional ethos to do whatever patient care demands.

Rod Dreher—hadn’t heard of him! Helen Andrews & Sohrab Ahmari are similar; they interview together & write blurbs for each other’s book jackets. However, I thought both Andrews & Ahmari interview better than they write. Among this group, communism is a constant touchstone. I’ll leave with one of Dreher’s favorite authors, “It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another.” –MacIntyre, After Virtue
Dreher’s interpretation of progressivism as having an essentially religious character is now a widespread argument—Ahmari and Andrews make the same. As a theory of secularization, it is a reversal of the pantheism of Victorian aestheticism and secularization, which was brought low by its own theodicy, blithe in the face of the world’s evils (Sara Lyons wrote a nice book on this). The point of controversy in this arena is the potency of woke principles and thus the extremity of response warranted. I argue wide-spread adoption of the principles is in fact evidence of their impotence to disrupt the current power structure. It’s a superficial theory comprised of litmus tests. In my own experience, I say the words and advance. The argot can be mastered in an afternoon. And I do appreciate the attention paid to the impressions we make upon others, for which we are all responsible and must attend. Perhaps I am too ambitious. Are you preferring to order your life as one of Dreher's islands as a defense against MacIntyre's 'dark age'?
In conclusion, I prefer the original spirit of Vatican II as presented by von Balthasar, Speyr, and Ratzinger over the prospect of Dreher’s Benedictine islands. I remain ever-hopeful for unity through openness and engagement. Dreher’s argument certainly has its proponents, clearly many contemporary writers are in Dreher’s camp. And their number does cause me to reflect further upon my own position. So, thanks for this recommendation!

@Columbkille Thanks!
Loved Merton's Seven Storey Mountain; read The Way on his recommendation. If you're interested by Merton's reflections on Taoism, I started but have yet to finish the works of Zhuangzi. Simone Weil promoted the Upanishads. There is certainly a universal wisdom to life.
Chesterton is a favorite of my priest. Hard to know where to start with his many shorter works. Do you have a favorite piece?

@TerrorOfDemons Thanks for the recommendation Darren! A search yielded several results, the siblings being a matter of public interest. I gave the top few a skim, mostly fragments and letters. Some charming anecdotes. The overall effect is to make one reflect upon similar lives that pass unnoticed, no? Leonie Martin, I learned, had a unexceptional life of hardship and devotion. And I'm sure many had been similarly influenced and ordered their lives.

@Columbkille "To reform. Every day a little. This has to be your constant task if you really want to become a saint." - St Escriva

Happy to meet you all!
I recently finished & enjoyed St Therese's autobiography & Simone Weil's Gravity and Grace. Though Simone Weil remained an outsider to the church, there are many parallels between their writings, such as the abyss of love, abandonment to God, self-diminishment so that God may become all.
Any other admirers of Simone Weil here? Or, in this vein of mystical autobiographical writings of principles put into practice, what other works have you all enjoyed?


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