“The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!”
– Thomas Merton
In my most recent post, I mentioned that all the members of my seminary basketball team (except me) have become successful. In case you couldn’t see from the vantage point of my webcam, my tongue was planted firmly in my cheek as I shared their actual vocations. Not all of them have received the Nobel Prize (only four).
Mark McCullough kindly wrote in suggesting that I could count this steady blog and faithful readership as a success. I am grateful for this acknowledgement and, as I said in reply, am glad to have this opportunity to write and be read.
I also include the quote (above) from Thomas Merton about the logical fallacy on which much worldly success is based. Our burning desire to be “liked” (whether in the virtual or real world) often distracts us from pursuing what is good and right and holy. Merton wrote this before the Internet age, likely from his hermit’s cabin in Kentucky and his wisdom is prophetic.
Our quest for success (as measured by fame and fortune) may seem adventurous and thrilling, but more often than not it leaves us dissatisfied with the life we are given.
I would rather daily appreciate the blessings of a well-turned phrase than obsess about writing a best-selling novel.
I would rather give two dollars to a homeless man than buy a Power Ball ticket in the vain hope that I might win big and set myself (and others) up for life.
I would rather find a satisfying job where I can be productive in my work than climb a corporate (or ecclesiastical) ladder – as I have tried.
Emily Dickinson wrote – “Success is counted sweetness by those who n’er succeed.”
Success may be sweet, but there’s an awful bitterness in striving for success. And the sweetness of success is not necessarily nourishing for our bodies and souls.
(Thomas Merton photo from Beth Pearce in People I Admire, Respect, Adore, or Otherwise Hope to Emulate)