Poet and Priest
Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.
Do you know what this implies? Don’t be too surprised if I tell you that this was the first Christian fellowship, the first certain, indissoluble, and indestructible Christian community.
Christian community is manifest wherever there is a group of people close to Jesus who are with him in such a way that they are directly and unambiguously affected by his promise and assurance. These (alone) may hear that everything he is, he is for them, and everything he does, he does for them.
To live by this promise is to be a Christian community.
By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in her, which is not yet actualized but ought to be.
Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.
I replied indignantly that I was not able to consider myself a success in any terms that had meaning to me. If it happened that I had once written a best-seller this was a pure accident, due to inattention and naiveté and I would take very good care never to do the same thing again. If I had a message for my contemporaries it was surely this: be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success.
Merton “heard no more” from his interlocutor and was “not aware that my reply was published.”
Photo: Jonathan Williams
“Portrait of Thomas Merton”
Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, N.C.
- shows up every day
- stays on the job all day
- commits to the long haul
- sets the stakes high, sees they’re real
- is patient
- seeks order
- acts in the face of fear
- accepts no excuses
- plays it as it lays
- is prepared
- doesn’t show off
- masters technique
- asks for help
- doesn’t take failure — or success — personally
- doesn’t identify with his or her instrument
- endures adversity
- reinvents herself
- is known by other professionals
- is courageous in sacrifice — enduring criticism, blame, envy
- works while others tweet
- is ruthless with himself, and compassionate; no perfectionism
- lives in the present
- defers gratification
- doesn’t wait for inspiration
- doesn’t give his power away
- helps others
- is neither groupie nor icon
- doesn’t seek the praise of the praised or proximity to the powerful or famous
— Steven Pressfield, from Turning Pro, page 90