Thomas Merton

Snoopy

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Hi,

A quiet place to post quotes from Thomas Merton....


s.
 

InLove

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Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
 

Dondi

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The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.


I find myself doing this erronously to my oldest daughter...who is 14.
 

Nattering Nabob

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...I shall discover who I am and shall possess my true identity by losing myself in Him.

Ch. 8, New Seeds of Contemplation.
 

Tariki

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I saw this thread and have read through the various quotes. Thanks. Thomas Merton is a favorite of mine and I have often said that, of his writings, it is in the Letters (published in five volumes) and his Journals (published in seven volumes) that I have, more often than not, found the greatest inspiration. Perhaps because, in them, he merely is and is making no conscious effort to convince. Anyway, whatever, here is a small extract from his Journal dated November 25, 1967, which for some reason I find deeply moving.

"At noon.....................I was out by St Bernard's lake and the sky, hills, trees kept taking on an air of clarity and freshness that took me back to springs twenty years ago when Lents were hard and I was new in the monastery. Strange feeling! Recapturing the freshness of those days when my whole monastic life was still ahead of me, when all was still open: but now it is all behind me, and the years have closed in upon their silly, unsatisfactory history, one by one. But the air is like spring and fresh as ever. And I was amazed at it. Had to stop and gaze and wonder: loblolly pines we planted ten or fifteen years ago are twenty feet high................Flashing water of the lake. a bluejay flying down as bright as metal. I went over to the wood where the Jonathan Daniel sculptures are now, and read some selections from Origen. And again stood amazed at the quiet, the bright sun, the spring-like light. The sharp outline of the pasture. Knolls, the brightness of the bare trees in the hopeful sun. And yet it is not spring. We are on the threshold of a hard winter."
 

Tariki

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I saw this thread and have read through the various quotes. Thanks. Thomas Merton is a favorite of mine and I have often said that, of his writings, it is in the Letters (published in five volumes) and his Journals (published in seven volumes) that I have, more often than not, found the greatest inspiration. Perhaps because, in them, he merely is and is making no conscious effort to convince.

I feel a little uneasy in having used the phrase "making a conscious effort to convince"................It does not truly capture the intent - or heart - of any of Merton's writings. Maybe he explains why in the following............


"I have tried to learn in my writing a monastic lesson I could probably have not learned otherwise: to let go of my idea of myself, to take myself with more than one grain of salt................In religious terms, this is simply a matter of accepting life, and everything in life as a gift, and clinging to none of it, as far as you are able. You give some of it to others, if you can. Yet one should be able to share things with others without bothering too much about how they like it, either, or how they accept it. Assume they will accept it, if they need it. And if they don't need it, why should they accept it? That is their business. Let me accept what is mine and give them all their share, and go my way.
All life tends to grow like this, in mystery inscaped with paradox and contradiction, yet centered in its very heart, on the divine mercy.........."
 

Virtual_Cliff

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The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.


Reminds me of C Day Lewis
...Perhaps it is roughly

Saying what God alone could perfectly show --

How selfhood begins with a walking away,

And love is proved in the letting go.

(My stock of Merton quotes is rather low) :)
 

InLove

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Just as there is no way of saying with certainty where and when He will appear at the end of the world, so too there is no way of saying with certainty where and when He will manifest Himself to contemplative souls.

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

 

Tariki

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"The more I am able to affirm others, to say 'yes' to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone.

I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further.

So, too, with the Muslims, the Hindu's, the Buddhists, etc. This does not mean syncretism, indifferentism, the vapid and careless friendliness that accepts everything by thinking of nothing. There is much that one cannot 'affirm' and 'accept,' but first one must say 'yes' where one really can."

(From "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander")
 

Tariki

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Hi,

A quiet place to post quotes from Thomas Merton....


s.

Yes, it seems fairly quiet................:)

The spiritual life is something that people worry about when they are so busy with something else they think they ought to be spiritual. Spiritual life is guilt. Up here in the woods is seen the New Testament: that is to say, the wind comes through the trees and you breathe it.

from "Day of a Stranger"

And while I am here, another.............

Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.

from "The Road to Joy", sub-titled "Letters to New and Old Friends"
 

Tariki

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I suppose the impression can be given, when a thread is composed of quotes alone, that the words originate from some ethereal source and not from a concrete human being. Whether or not this is the case, I would just like to speak of Merton's own very lovable humanity. There is a wonderful photo of Merton in the Lion edition of "The Intimate Merton" that is worth a million words. The caption is "This is the old hillbilly who knows where the still is", and it truly captures the man as he must have been known to his own friends, full of fun and humour. The expression on his face is a picture indeed! When Henri Nouwen met him, he spoke of an initial reaction of disppointment as nothing "very special, profound or spiritual" occured............

Maybe I expected something unusual, something to talk about with others or to write home about. But Thomas Merton proved to be a very down-to-earth, healthy human being who was not going to perform to satisfy our curiosity. He was one of us...............(later) I became very grateful for that one unspectacular encounter. I found that whenever I was tempted to let myself be carried away by lofty ideas or cloudy aspirations, I had only to remind myself of that one afternoon to bring myself back to earth. (With) my mind's eye I saw him again as that earthy man, dressed in sloppy blue jeans, loud, laughing, friendly and unpretentious..................

There is a passage in one of his letters (which I am totally unable to locate at the moment!) where he relates an episode following the ordination of one of his best friends, Dan Walsh, in 1967. Following the ceremony, Merton and a few of his other friends got just a little tiddly on alcohol and began falling around with laughter. Looking on was a group of nuns who appeared just a little shocked! "Another pillar of the Church had fallen" comments Merton.

(My apologies for taking up so much space! I have no wish to indulge in "hero worship"! As Henri Nouwen himself said, "Merton is no more than a window through whom we may perhaps catch a glimpse of the One who had called him to a life of prayer and solitude". He said many times himself that he sought to become "no-one".)

Anyway, a final quote, from a letter contained in "The School of Charity", written in August 1964.......

I see clearer than ever that I am not a monk.........................I expect to live for a few more years, hoping that I will not go nuts...............This, I think, is about the best I can hope for. It sums up the total of my expectations for the immediate future. If on top of this the Lord sees fit in His mercy to admit me to a non-monastic corner of heaven, among the beatniks and pacifists and other maniacs, I will be exceedingly grateful. Doubtless there will be a few pseudo-hermits among them and we will all sit around and look at each other and wonder how we made it. Up above will be the monks, with a clearer view of their own status and a more profound capacity to appreciate the meaning of status and the value of having one.....

Maybe it can be all summed up by a comment made by Merton when visited in 1954 by his friend Mark Van Doren. Van Doren remarked that Merton had not changed much. Merton replied....."Why should I? Here our duty is to be more ourselves, not less"
 

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"Unable to rest in anything we achieve, we determine to forget our discontent in a ceaseless quest for new satisfactions. In this pursuit, desire itself becomes our chief satisfaction."
 

Tariki

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Hi,

What else would you expect from a Trappist monk?:)

s.

Snoopy,

Oh yes, Merton was quite a connoisseur of beer, developed in his wayward youth. His love of it never wavered. And in his own "ceaseless quest for new satisfactions" he imbibed some of the eastern varieties during his final journey to Asia. Yet to be fair, judging from the entries in his journals, throughout his monastic life the fasts exceeded the indulgences!

Anyway, another quote - rather long - which I have given before on other threads. Yet it demonstrates Merton's own wish to seek to "say yes where one really can" to faiths and teachings other than his own.

It is taken from a letter to D T Suzuki, as given in "The Hidden Ground of Love" (sub-titled "Letters on Religious Experience and Social Concerns")

..............we are in paradise, and what fools would we be to think thoughts that would put us out of it (as if we could be out of it!). One thing I would add. To my mind, the Christian doctrine of grace (however understood - I mean here the gift of God's life to us) seems to me to fulfilll a most important function in all this. The realization, the finding of ourselves in Christ and hence in paradise, has a special character from the fact that this is all a free gift from God. With us, this stress on freedom, God's freedom, the indeterminateness of salvation, is the thing that corresponds to Zen in Christianity. The breakthrough that comes with the realization of what the finger of a koan is pointing to is like the breakthrough of the realization that a sacrament, for instance, is a finger pointing to the completely spontaneous Gift of Himself to us on the part of God - beyond and above images, outside of every idea, every law, every right or wrong, everything high or low, everything spiritual or material. Whether we are good or bad, wise or foolish, there is always this sudden irruption, this breakthrough of God's freedom into our life, turning the whole thing upside down so that it comes out, contrary to all expectation, right side up. This is grace, this is salvation, this is Christianity. And, so far as I can see, it is also very much like Zen.........
 

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We have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know as ourselves.
 

Tariki

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If you want to find satisfactory formulas you had better deal with things that can be fitted into a formula. The vocation to seek God is not one of them. Nor is existence. Nor is the spirit of man.

...or wo/man (I wish the guy had been PC!!)

:)
 

Tariki

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From a letter to the "Zen Man" Daisetz T Suzuki.................

I want to speak for this Western world.................which has in past centuries broken in upon you and brought you our own confusion, our own alienation, our own decrepitude, our lack of culture, our lack of faith...........If I wept until the end of the world, I could not signify enough of what this tragedy means. If only we had thought of coming to you to learn something..............If only we had thought of coming to you and loving you for what you are in yourselves, instead of trying to make you over into our own image and likeness. For me it is clearly evident that you and I have in common and share most intimately precisely that which, in the eyes of conventional Westerners, would seem to separate us. The fact that you are a Zen Buddhist and I am a Christian monk, far from separating us, makes us most like one another. How many centuries is it going to take for people to discover this fact?......
 

InLove

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Thanks for that quote, Tariki--

It reminds me of some of Kakuzo Okakura's writings in The Book of Tea. :)

InPeace,
InLove
 
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