Sunday, June 10, 2007

Synthetic Passions

"Nowhere, except perhaps in the analogous society of pagan Rome, has there ever been such a flowering of cheap and petty and disgusting lusts and vanities...where there is no evil that is not fostered and encouraged for the sake of making money. We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest."~~ Thomas Merton, 1948

1948. Amazing, huh.

What would Merton write today?


Anonymous said...

Where are you reading these Thomas Merton quotes? I just read in a book quoting Daniel Boorstin, I think, that was eerily prophetic. Since my dad moved in with us we see more tv than I've seen for many years. Yesterday there was a show on that told about a couple who spent around $1,000,000 for the husband's birthday party, and "it was worth every penny." The wife was asked how she could justify the expense and she noted that her husband was 54 years old and a cancer survivor. She said in almost evangelistic tones how we need to "celebrate living." It was very moving (well, not really for me, because I was fooled by the lofty rhetoric.), but the implication was that one couldn't really celebrate unless a lot of money got spent.

So is the Ben in the post below your Gutenberg son?

Anonymous said...

Thomas would write the same thing I think. Perhaps more.

Patti, sad that a birthday had to be worth a million dollars. What will they do for his 60th? Maybe they could spend the million on saving a child who has lukemia and no insurance to cover the medical costs. Maybe...they could help two children be survivors!

Cherie said...

Patti: These last two quotes are from "Seven Storey Mountain" Merton's autobiography which I am exactly halfway through reading. Fascinating to me.

A million dollar birthday party 'justified' - mercy me. Thanks for sharing a good example.

And no, Ben is my eldest son, a professional photographer, long since gradutated from college. Joe is my Gutenberg son. His birthday is this summer, too, and I've got a tribute churning in my mind and heart for him. Stay tuned! :-) For now, he is mentioned in the May pages of this blog - the one with the Mohawk (Joe's Excellent Adventure), and the first owner of 'Pete'.)

Thanks for commenting!

Cherie said...

Sandy: I wholeheartedly agree with you that Merton would write the same words - and perhaps more.

You had the same reaction I did to Patti's comment. Astounding isn't it, a million dollars for a birthday party.

Melanie said...

Wow! That is amazing. It's hard to imagine what he would write today.

Cherie said...

Hi Melanie! Thanks for the visit and comment. It really IS an amazing thing to read such fitting words, penned 59 years ago.

My mom always says, "The more we change, the more we stay the same."

tshsmom said...

"Synthetic passions"; I like that!
This is yet another thing that doesn't change through the ages.

We all have to learn how to balance our lives amidst the attractive temptations out there. I pity the people, like the $million birthday party people, who haven't struck that balance.

Deadmanshonda said...

I'm a tad certain he might write "Leisel,you work at a movie studio. You're part of the problem and going to hell."


Poor fellow...didn't he kill himself with a dryer in the bathtub?

Pam said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same... maybe he'd be speechless.

Cherie said...

Yes, tshs, balance. It's all about balance. Once again, you've hit the nail on the head.

Leisel: See the dot dot dot (...) in my quote? How did you know that it said, "Leisel, you work at a movie studio. You're part of the problem and going to hell."? You've read the book already, haven't you! TEASING! ; ) And actually, he was stepping out of the tub in Bangkok while on a lovely trip, touched a poorly grounded electric fan, and that was that. So sad and a great loss to all of us. Tom says that's why they double insulate now, because that sort of thing happened a lot.

Pam: You may be right - speechless. But it's hard to imagine Merton 'wordless'. He'd have something to write.....probably mostly about Leisel!!!!

Thanks for your comments ladies. The exchange of ideas is invigorating - and sometimes humorous!

cecily said...

My problem is how to resist all this? I very much like Merton's quote and am amazed at his insight... I have also have a degree of insight into the corporate treadmill that seeks to grind my resistance to a pulp that oozes towards their products without even trying. How do I resist becoming such pulp? I find myself too often unwittingly sucked into the lies.

- Identifying the lies in advertisements and responding with a statement of truth. eg 'she's gotta have it'... 'actually, she'll live without it'

- Measuring purchases on the 'I need this' scale. I succeed most of the time here, but seem to have hormonally driven lapses.

- Expose myself to pictures and stories of the world's poor and suffering who experience hideous injustice at the hands of (you guessed it) our corporate giants. And our governments, but let's not go there today.

Yes, there are a few things I can do... but it's an uphill battle. That policy of keeping my nerves at artificial tension point is a hard one to better!

Cherie said...

Great great great analysis and working through of this concept, Cecily. You've got me thinking!

Thanks for this comment. Good!

tshsmom said...

Good one Cecily!
Identifying the lies in ads, was one of the first things I taught my kids. The ads for kid's toys are the worst at this!

Cherie said...

Amen, tshs.

And you are right, kids' toy ads - the worst!