Violently Good TastenLIBERAL CULTUREnIggy Pop is precisely the kind of rocknspecimen that many think of when mentionnis made of that breed: vile, corrupt,nsordid, and so on. Recently High Timesnmagazine, perhaps in testimony to itsnhigh-level concern with literature and thenarts, ran excerpts from Mr. Pop’snmemoirs, INeedMore. In them, Mr. Popnthe neat fit these make with the leftistnagenda of the 1960’s, when he wrotenmost of them, the writer never strayednfrom his central spiritual message: thenhistoric teaching of the Catholic Churchnthat earthly life should be a path to onenessnwith Christ, and that all men have ancontemplative aspect that leads them tonGod. In “Poetry and Contemplation,”nMerton tells us that “Contemplation isnthe fullness of the Christian vocation—nthe full flowering of baptismal grace andnof the Christ-life in our souls.” Contemplation—notnchanging the world.nStill, Merton grew at Gethsemani intonan energetic, assertive public figure atnodds with the monastic drill. But henchanged primarily because Gethsemaninwas changing, to his dismay. Althoughnhe suffered in the drafty monastery, henfought bitterly to prevent the Abbotnfrom implementing modern proceduresnof business administration on the mon­n101nChronicles of Culturendescribes the reactions of those listeningnto his waiiings:nI’ve been spil at, I’ve been slugged,nI’ve been egged. I’ve been hit withnpaper clips, money, can:ieras, bras-n•sieres, underwear, old rags and with expensivengarments and belts and things.nI’ve been hit with, well, a slingshot.nHe adds, unremorsefuUy, “Yeah, younjust get used to it after a while.” Mr. Popnsingles out his experiences in Detroit,nwhere he has been pelted with missilesnranging from whiskey bottles to grapefruitsnand knocked cold on at least two occasions.nDetroit, according to testimonynin Rolling Stone from figures includingnMickjagger, is supposed to have the bestnaudiences in the world. Taste, however,nhas no bounds. And once again, Detroitnfaces foreign competition. Describingnthe events on a recent European tour,nwhere half of his band was beat up, Mr.nPop notes, “Marseilles may be meanernthan Detroit.” Those in the land of Leenlacocca undoubtedly won’t stand fornthat. •nastery farm, and he opposed plans tonestablish a cheese and fruitcake business.nAs Monica Furlong tells it in her biographynof Merton, he hated the grindingnroar of the new farm machinery thatnbroke the monastic peace, skewed thenold contemplative routine, and, in Merton’snview, created an atmosphere ofnmodern, office-shop boredom thatnchased away novices with serious vocations.nAs a monk, as a man of God, Mertonngrew more conservative as the yearsnpassed, not more radical. It was his deepndevotion to the transcendent that lednhim to read Protestant spiritual writings,nBuddhist and Hindu meditations, and,neventually, anything that referred evennfleetingly to religion, including thenshallow moralistic writing that rationalizednradical political activism. Itnwas his tireless investigation of thingsnspiritual that led him away from Gethsemaninto study the religions of the East,nnnto Bangkok and to his death in 1968.nThis is the only way to look at Merton’snwriting about literature.nA he first essay in this anthology,n”Blake and the New Theology,” confrontsnthe “Merton myth” head-on.nMerton, who wrote his master’s thesis atnColumbia on William Blake, scoffs atnthe position of radical theologiannThomas Altizer, who in a book entidednThe New Apocalypse attempted to makenBlake a hero of the religious left. As Mertonnputs it, “Altizer, the radical AmericannGod-is-dead theologian [in his]nBlakean trail. . . drafts Blake with all hisnworks into the militant ranks of new antireligiousnChristians.” Obviously Mertonndid not place himself among thesen”new” Christians. His analysis of Blakenmaps out his own place. He views him asn”radical” in the sense that John the Baptistnwas, castigating the complacency ofncontemporary religious institutions.n”Blake saw official Christianity as a narrowingnof vision, a foreclosure of experiencenand of future expansion. Hensubstituted for it a Christianity of openness,nof total vision, a faith which diametricallynembraces both extremes.”nThis was also Merton’s ambition. He utterlyndestroys Altizer’s view of Blake as anHegelian or a Marxist and proposes hisnown: that Blake was an authentic Christiannmystic with his heritage in thenmysticism of the early Church. Mertonncame to believe that such a practice ofnChristianity was hindered by the smugnessnof the Church hierarchy, includingneven the leadership of his own order.nSimilarly, Merton’s lengthy essays onnPasternak develop and defend a positionnthat DoctorZhivago, which was hailed innthe West as an anti-Soviet polemic, is actuallyna study of a lifelong journey tonspirituality and to Christ. Here he is onnsolid ground. Pasternak himself wrote:n”How many things in this world deservenour loyalty? Very few indeed. [But] onenmust be true to immortality—true tonChrist.” To Merton, “The Christ ofnPasternak is the Christ Who has liberatednman from death and Who lives in man.n