Wednesday, May 23, 2007

contracts with life


brush drawing by Thomas Merton. Untitled.
(image size: 3 1/4" h x 2 3/4" w)

It’s time for me to get back to looking at the calligraphies again – these strange markings that Merton made. I appreciate the guidance that Roger Lipsey gives to looking at them. They seem familiar to me, somehow. Like they come from a place where I know this mysterious language.

In the autumn of 1963, Merton drafted notes toward the essay on his art that is published in Lipsey’s book, “Angelic Mistakes – the Art of Thomas Merton”. The following notes are drawn from that essay:

These are contracts with movement, with life, in which no one can be bound except to what was and is now definitive.

Not a question of conjunction of idea and execution.

Inventions yes: but also collaborations with solitude.
Summonses, calls to experiment, trials, gifts, fortunate events.

Neither rustic nor urbane, Eastern nor Western, perhaps can be called expressions of Zen Catholicism.

Rearrangement of forms leads to change of perception: registering certain signs – in order to become aware of certain new possibilities and consonances. Not without
self-criticism.

But in what terms! Fidelity to Zen-like experience of wholeness.


Lipsey’s comments on this drawing:

"… escapes interpretation and needs none. It perfectly fulfills Merton’s stated program of offering “signs without prearrangement”, “summonses to awareness”. The image relies on contrasts – heavy and light, lower and upper, axial and diagonal – but to say this is only to describe, not to interpret. It is a sign made by a free spirit, inviting us to be free. Its lightness and spring call out the same in us.”

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