Love In The Time Of Market Downturn

thom4Thomas Merton, Catholic monk and spiritual writer, reflects here on the way a market environment shapes everything – including our concept of love.

Our philosophy of life is not something we create all by ourselves out of nothing. Our ways of thinking, even our attitudes toward ourselves, are more and more determined from the outside. Even our love tends to fit ready-made forms. We consciously or unconsciously tailor our notions of love according to patterns we are exposed to day after day….

Love [Merton begins to examine one of these patterns] is regarded as a deal. The deal presupposes that we all have needs which have to be fulfilled by means of exchange. In order to make a deal you have to appear in the market with a worthwhile product, or if the product is worthless, you can get by if you dress it up in a good-looking package. We unconsciously think of ourselves as objects for sale on the market. We want to be wanted. We want to attract customers. We want to look like the kind of product that makes money. …In doing this we come to consider ourselves and others not as persons but as products, as “goods,” or in other words, as packages. We appraise one another commercially. We size each other up and make deals with a view to our own profit. We do not give ourselves in love, we make a deal that will enhance our own product, and therefore no deal is final. Our eye is already on the next deal, and this next deal need not necessarily be with the same customer. Life is more interesting when you make a lot of deals with a lot of new customers.–Thomas Merton

From “Love and Need: Is Love a Package or a Message?” in Love and Living (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1985)

“The trouble with this commercialized idea of love,” write the folks at The Merton Institute, “is that it diverts your attention more and more from the essentials to the accessories of love. You are no longer able to really love the other person, for you become obsessed with the effectiveness of your own package, your own product, your own market value.”

You are are not a commodity. You are a human being – distinct and lovely and greatly loved in the eyes of God.

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