Sometimes Merton can digress, but at other times he is brilliant. I’m reading his work No Man is an Island and have had to bookmark virtually every page in the chapter Conscience, Freedom, and Prayer. In regards to our means of pursuing happiness (which is what we’re all doing), the nail is hit on the head. This passage is rich:
It is true, the freedom of my will is a great thing. But this freedom is not absolute self-sufficiency. If the essence of freedom were merely the act of choice, then the mere fact of making choices would perfect our freedom. But there are two difficulties here. First of all, our choices must really be free – that is to say they must perfect us in our own being. They must perfect us in our relation to other free beings. We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves. From this flows the second difficulty: we too easily assume that we ARE our real selves, and that our choices are really the ones we WANT to make when, in fact, our acts of free choice are (though morally imputable, no doubt) largely dictated by psychological compulsions, flowing from our inordinate ideas of our own importance. Our choices are too often dictated by our false selves.
Hence I do not find in myself the power to be happy merely by doing what I like. On the contrary, if I do nothing except what pleases my own fancy I will be miserable almost all the time.[!] This would never be so if my will had not been created to use its own freedom in the love of others.
Photo credit (Good luck and happiness)