Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

It is the question of a game



"Businesses, are, in reality, quasi-religious sects. When you go to work in one, you embrace A New Faith. And if they are really big businesses, you progress from faith to a kind of mystique. Belief in the product, preaching the product, in the end the product becomes the focus of a transcendental experience. Through 'the product' one communes with the vast forces of life, nature, and history that are expressed in business. Why not face it? Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments.

Harrington says (Life in the Crystal Palace): "The new evangelism whether expressed in soft or hard selling, is a quasi-religious approach to business, wrapped in a hoax -- a hoax voluntarily entered into by producers and consumers together. Its credo is that of belief-to-order. It is the truth-to-order as delivered by advertising and public relations men, believed in by them and voluntarily believed by the public."

Once again, it is the question of a game. Life is aimless, but one invents a thousand aimless aims and then mobilizes a whole econ­omy around them, finally declaring them to be transcendental, mystical, and absolute.

Compare our monastery and the General Electric plant in Louisville. Which one is the more serious and more "religious" institution? One might be tempted to say "the monastery," out of sheer habit. But, in fact, the religious seriousness of the monastery is like sandlot baseball compared with the big-league seriousness of General Electric. It may in fact occur to many, including the monks, to doubt the monastery and what it represents. Who doubts G.E.?

Thomas Merton, OCSO
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 232-233 (cGB 211)


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