"The only way to change the world is to change the thoughts and desires of those who live in it."
These words by Thomas Merton, so characteristically direct, honest and insightful, have, it seems to me, both spiritual and political dimensions.
The real journey in life, Merton wrote, is interior, and the "world" for him is the outward expression of our inner lives.
Having just completed directing two retreats on Merton and contemplative silence, I hope I have done a little to affect, if not change, the thoughts of those attending. Most of my retreatants in south Florida and in central Florida responded well to the Psalmist's message, "Be still and know...." They could see that quieting down and listening to the "still, small voice" of God is essential for them and for those they encounter.
How can we expect our lives to be peaceful when we don't cultivate inner peace?
How can we expect peace in the world if we are overly busy, restless, anxious...? The questions are easy to pose. Realizing solutions is never easy, yet the coming to power of the Obama administration gives many of us hope that, at last, we have a thoughtful, patient and intelligent man leading a gifted group of people through some of the most turbulent problems imaginable.
If Obama succeeds in reaching those who resent him at home because of his race and in reaching those beyond our shores in the Islamic world, and if they really listen, as he is capable of listening, I believe much good will be done to reduce the ancient tensions that provoke violence.
That, at least, is a noble hope and wish for this season of peace.