Disclaimer: I don’t disagree with Merton, nor is this an attempt to bash him at all. Merely my thoughts on the essay…
He seemed to make two points…
First, He likens the university experience to a monastic one, and I would concur. He also talks about how those two experiences are more about self-discovery than learning things, which I also agree with… but he describes self-discovery using a LOT of vague ambiguous philosophical terms like, [my very loose example/paraphrasing]:
Finding yourself isn’t finding yourself but finding the self that finds your self, and really that’s God finding your self for you and that you don’t actually “live” until that moment occurs unless you would describe that moment as yourself discovering you, which negates the self-discovery. And the whole finding yourself thing is really a single spark, a single moment in time, [which i actually do disagree with; I feel it's a process]
Also, the whole success thing he touches on… He stresses that we should reject success, but fails to define it, really. It seems the idea of “success” that he is rejecting is that which was allegedly put forth by some of his university experience, which was to get a high-paying job and be seen as very important to society… which in most respects I agree is not important to pursue in one’s own life as success. However, “success” is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, which paints a very apathetic view of life wherein he is intentionally “running away from any success” as
I believe he puts it. To work toward failing every aim or purpose you ever have in life. Keep in mind the unhealthy definition of success I described earlier, he really never mentions or gets into, only stressing that he doesn’t want and even avoids “success.” He also tries (poorly, I feel) to stress that he is not saying that his unsuccess idea is his way of undermining the success concept (“winning by refusing to keep score”). I guess he spends a lot of time stressing what seems to be a fairly recognized truth among anyone who would be reading his book anyway. That being, “success” in life should not be about this ambitious, capitalistic, self-aggrandizement.
It wasn’t bad. Just, for the verbosity he chose to use, I expected more truth.
I am confident his subsequent essays will have more to learn, love and live from/in them.