Today’s reading in A Year with Thomas Merton was penned nearly fifty years ago, but appears to have been written by a fellow overwhelmed by the daily barrage of e-mails and blogs that we experience in 2012. Sitting in his monk’s hermitage among the scrubby knobs of southeast Kentucky, Merton realized that he had a compulsion to express himself  on everything happening around him and to him every day.

What do such judgments mean? Little or nothing. Things are as they are in an immense whole of which I am a part and cannot pretend to grasp. To say I grasp it is to immediately put myself in a false position, as if I were ‘outside’ it. Whereas to be ‘in’ it is to seek truth in my own life and action, moving where movement is possible and keeping still when movement is unnecessary…

A good description of the dilemma of social media, I thought. The constant press of Facebook postings, Twitter “tweets,” and blog rants goad me to respond before I’ve had no time to reflect on what’s being discussed. I fear that if I wait for time to pray, reflect, and meditate on the matter at hand, the discussion thread will have ended and no one will consider what I have to say.

That’s the fallacy of social media: The “live chat” format presumes that everyone has something substative to say right now on what is happening right now, so we find ourselves drowning in a torrent of speculative sludge. Merton says,

… The judgments and mercies of God will…be more clear to me if I am silent and attentive, obedient to His will, rather than constantly formulating statements in this age which is smothered in language, in meaningless and inconclusive debate in which, in the last analysis, nobody listens to anything except what agrees with his own prejudices.–A Year with Thomas Merton, March 24.