Three-Minute Book Club
When the idea of posting short excerpts from books first occurred to me yesterday, I knew exactly which one I wanted to start with: the part in The Seven Storey Mountain where Thomas Merton describes his desire to get published when he was a young writer. After chronicling the many rejection letters he received, he writes:
The more I failed, the more I was convinced that it was important for me to have my work printed in magazines like the Southern Review or Partisan Review or the New Yorker. My chief concern was now to see myself in print. It was as if I could not quite be satisfied that I was real until I could feed my ambition with these trivial glories, and my ancient selfishness was now matured and concentrated in this desire to see myself externalized in a public and printed and official self which I could admire at my ease. This was what I really believed in: reputation, success. I wanted to live in the eyes and the mouths and the minds of men.
I was not so crude that I wanted to be known and admired by the whole world: there was a certain naive satisfaction in the idea of being only appreciated by a particular minority, which gave a special fascination to this urge within me. But when my mind was absorbed in all that, how could I lead a supernatural life, the life to which I was called? How could I love God, when everything I did was done not for Him but for myself, and not trusting in His aid, but relying on my own wisdom and talents? [emphasis mine]
Needless to say, this hit close to home for me. Obviously I want to see my writing in print…but for what reasons? Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be published, but it is possible to make it more about receiving the praise of men than humbly putting your talents to the service of God.
I’d be interested to hear from you:
- Anyone else have one of those “oof!” moments when reading this quote, or was that just me?
- If you’ve ever felt called to do something that would also put you in the public eye, even on a small level (e.g. blogging, singing in the church choir, teaching, acting, etc.), how did you balance the desire to humbly serve God with the temptation to chase the attention and acclaim of the world?
- Any other thoughts are welcome as well!
Be the first to hear about comedy tour cities and dates!
Join my email list and I'll send notes a couple of times per month and will never share your email address.