PERSONALISM: THOMAS MERTON

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Thomas Merton certainly has a unique way of delineating and dissecting the word of God, and due to this ability he wrote an analysis of the human person, individualism, and Christianity. Merton helped traditionally conservative Catholics to turn to the depths of their own hearts and traditions as well as toward the wisdom of the East (Imperato 29). Individualism always has self at the center of everything. Personalism is based on relationship values and works for a common, good-for-all goal. Therefore personalism is pitted against individualism.

With this working definition of personalism, it is easier to see that unity is possible than to actually experience it. To be one, mystically speaking, is to have a common goal and be like-minded with others in the group in question. If the meaning is spiritual, then the answer is definitely yes. This is because Christ, by the definition of who he is, is able to create an atmosphere within which man can be one in unity even while having differing opinions.

It is not possible for man to live with absolutes. The mind is not capable of rendering an opinion that is absolutely unbiased. Therefore, his personal presence, observation, value, and things of this nature are prone to change as he does. Since he thrives on individualism it is most difficult for him to have a personal presence that is anything different than what he is at that moment. This is where prayer comes to the aid of personal presence.

Becoming one's truest self involves integration of knowledge through social interaction as well as prayer (Imperato 34). Individualism and personalism are not the same in that one has self at the center and the other considers more elements in a given situation other than self. Because the goal is to put forth the best personal presence possible, trust is Christ has to be at the center of the focus. Ministers of the Gospel are prime examples of this. When watching a man teach or preach a certain personal presence is being displayed. However, when speaking with him afterward we find he is not much different than you and I. In the description of the preacher's personal presence we find something that we desire in as much as it will enhance our own personal presence. In this we find a common ground and therefore strive to be like that person.