Monday, September 15, 2008

All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers

This is turning out to be a good read by Larry McMurtry about a self-absorbed and alienated writer. It is also written in a very parred-down way, so it is easy to read, which is a nice change from my heavy class readings.

I wonder if the title is turning into a kind of dour premonition. I feel like I am in this lousy state of being disgusted with everything and everyone and at the same time unable to untangle myself from it. I found some notes I had written while traveling, having picked up a book on Thomas Merton's personality:

The Enneagram Theory personality type indicator as used by Suzanne Zuerchen, OSB in her profile of Thomas Merton. She attests that Thomas Merton was a 4 in enneagramic space, characterized by three main personality characteristics: ego-romantic, ego-melancholic, and over-dramatizer.
Some of these dynamics as described by people who knew him:

John Eudes Bamberger: "If you knew him, Merton had a great deal of spontaneous joy and humor but, like so many people who are inclined that way at times, when he was down it was heavy. He seemed to me to be unfair at those times in critical remarks he might make."

Mary Luke Tobin: "He was a man who examined himself continually. He blamed himself for being too sensitive to the opinions of others, and he often talked about that as his allergy. I think he lived with this, as all of us must, but in a person of his depth and sensitivity it must have been particularly painful."

John Barber: "I suppose you might say that he had a moody side, but I wouldnt say it was moody as much as it was a way of withdrawing into his own thoughts. He thought deeply, you could sense that, much more deeply than most of us who came from a less international background...and I would say, even with his bright, sprightly nature, he had a contemplative side. He appreciated being on his own a good bit. That was the strange contrast in him."

Abbot John Eudes: "Almost anything he (Merton) took a liking to he became enthusiastic about, very quickly, as I learned as the years went on. But that wasn't the impression his books gave. His books gave the impression of a person who was on top of things, and who had a very involved but balanced vision. There was a great openness about him and yet a concealed reserve, too."

Despite this inner distancing, 4s are instinctively social and come from the social triad on the enneagram. They keep getting caught in nets of friendships and personal attachment in spite of themselves. Actually, 4s want to relate deeply and personally, and they hope their conviction that all relationships are doomed to failure will be proven wrong someday, somehow... this end they remind themselves that no relationship can be counted on to endure. Even when the end is due to external circumstances, they usually see it caused by their own insufficiency as people worth relating to. It is their own feeling of inadequacy that ultimately destroys all of their encounters with others. They examine themselves obsessively, question all of their motivations, and come up wanting every time... (28-29)

Contemplation in Action
Age quod agisdo what you are doing.

Merton: Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reacted when a man deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost. (New Seeds of Contemplation, 181)

...this destiny of loneliness is one 4s conclude they deserve because, as Merton has put it, they have within themselves only emptiness on the one side and falsity and lying on the other. (33)

"Wretched the man who withholds forgiveness."

1 comment:

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Rob,

I LOVE this book! Larry M. is a genius. I was his student for about three minutes (he wasn't much for teaching at all) and loved him and his work. The title is so sad -- you're going to love the sequel, Some Can Whistle. Very depressing as well.