I love my country very much, and there is no place in the world I would rather live. But once in a while - especially in these times when cocky political candidates make outrageous statements which are cheered by large numbers of like-minded supporters - it's good to endure a good, swift "kick in the butt" from a contemplative social critic who lives on the "desert" margins of society:
"I fear the ignorance and power of the United States. And the fact that it has quite suddenly become one of the most decadent societies on the face of the earth. The body of a great, dead, CANDIED CHILD. Yet not dead: full of immense, uncontrolled power. Crazy. If somebody doesn't understand the United States pretty soon - and communicate some of that understanding to the United States - the results will be terrible. It is no accident that the United States endowed the world with the Bomb. The mixture of immaturity, size, apparent indulgence and depravity, with occasional spasms of guilt, power, self-hate, pugnacity, laping into wildness and then apathy, hopped up and wild-eyed, inarticulate and wanting to be popular. You need a doctor, Uncle! The exasperation of the other nations of the world who know the United States thinks them JEALOUS - for what they don't want and yet what fascinates them. Exasperation that such fools should be momentarily kings of the world. Exasperation at them for missing their great chance - this everyone finds unforgivable, including America itself. And yet what holds the United States back is a spasm of that vestigal organ called conscience. Unfortunately not a sufficiently educated conscience. The conscience of a ten-year old boy, unsure of his parents' standards - not knowing where approval or disapproval might come from!"
Thomas Merton, 1961
Photos: Canyonlands National Park, UT, November 30, 2015
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.