Saturday, July 28, 2007

the world runs by rhythms

brush drawing by Thomas Merton, Untitled, image size: 11" h x 8" w

“Ch’i yun [rhythmic vitality] may be expressed by ink, by brushwork, by an idea, or by absence of ideas. … It is something beyond the feeling of the brush with the effect of ink, because it is the moving power of Heaven, which is suddenly disclosed, But only those who are quiet can understand it.” (emphasis added by Merton)

(transcribed by Merton into his notes from a book on the Taoist spirit in Chinese art.)





photos by Thomas Merton
“The world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.” (Raids on the Unspeakable, p. 9)

12 comments:

  1. Thomas Merton the writer, the artist, the photographer, apparently simple but layered...something to delve into...again and again.

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  2. Yes. Like all of us, I think - lots of layers.

    It's interesting how the multi-layered person can appear to be "simple", isn't it? Merton, from how I've come to know him, was a direct and focused man. There was a center to him that he held to.

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  3. I've only got to page 37 of The Seven Storey Mountain and already I've marked a page to come back to later..oh the joy of it all!

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  4. That book never fails to satisfy! I just loaned my copy to my neighbour and she is happily ploughing through it now. You will want to read Sign of Jonah thereafter.
    I just read Infinity of Little Hours about five fellows who entered the Carthusians in the early 1960's (fascinating book!). Most of them had read and cited The Seven Storey Mountain.

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  5. The Seven Storey Mountain was the second book by Merton that I read. The first was No Man is an Island. My GrandMother gave me her copy of it before she died in 1995. I picked it up in 2003 and started to read it. I think the title alone sunk in to my thick, thick, ego self, and at what has become a turning point in my life, a conversion began that continues today. I am so grateful to be able to see life with "new" eyes.

    Sean

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  6. Well, Sean, Merton will certainly lead you to new places. I hope that you will continue to read some of Merton's later writings as well.

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  7. Hi Beth,
    I had to chuckle as I stopped back here (after reading The Merton we knew link) and read your comment. Thank you, and yes I will and am.
    I have read New seeds of contemplation, The Intimate Merton,The Asian journal, The sign of Jonas, Thoughts in Solitude, The New Man, Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Passion for Peace, I think maybe a couple more that I can't remember at this moment. I think that thoughts in solitude is the book I refer to the most. I keep a pocket copy in my truck. (I am a self employed carpenter) My lunch breaks always include a little Merton. I considered myself a Buddhist for most of my life. 15-40. In 2003, as I finished the Seven Story Mountain, I had a sort of spiritual awakening. I understood that for me to be the truest Buddhist I could be, I needed to go back to what I was born to, a Catholic! It was Merton and especially his connection to The Dali Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and Buddhism that led me to this point. It is a long story, I have taken up way to much of your time and space here as it is.
    Again thank you for taking the time to maintain this blog, and inspire and provide so much information for people like me to hopefuly understand just a little bit of it.

    Peace
    Sean

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  8. wow - sounds like you're a Merton-reader like me, Sean.
    Just today I was reading (in Roger Lipsey's book) about how Merton felt that Zen and Catholicism complemented each other - and that it was Zen Buddhism, as a mirror of his Christian faith, that helped him to see the goodness and depth of Christianity.

    Take as much time and space here as you want!

    Though all of Merton's writings have their place, he, himself, seems to prefer his later writings, and especially those that emphasize solitude. Once when a writer commented that "No Man Is An Island" was Merton's best work, Merton was clearly annoyed: "His perspective is all off. Not that I claim to be doing especially good work, but to pick NO MAN IS AN ISLAND which is vague and not characteristic, and overlooking something like the notes on solitude in DISPUTED QUESTIONS, which is really what I have to say, shows that he does not know what he is dealing with at all. He is not able to discriminate between one thing of mine and another." (Letter to Therese Lentfoehr, February 5, 1961)

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  9. Beth,
    Thanks for your encouragement. I am discovering Merton in a very random order. I am learning much more about Merton, the man, now that I have found your site, as well as the Merton Institute. One thing for me is that the more I seem to learn from others that knew him, or have studied him, I think I already knew in my heart, from the connection I had with him in Seven Storey Mountain.
    I have a copy of Disputed Questions that I have not really delved into. I will change that today!
    Thank you
    Peace
    Sean

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  10. Seems to me that almost everyone who reads Merton has their own personal take on him ... like a real person. That convinces me that his person comes thru in his writing, he's not just writing from his head. And people find in his writing what they are needing at that time in their lives. I've been reading him for more than 40 years, and he never gets old - I continue to discover more.

    Or maybe it's the same thing that I'm discovering and re-affirming in myself, again and again.

    I think I'll look at Disputed Questions again too, Sean!

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  11. My absolute Merton favorite is Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. I was drawn to him by a quote from that book, which I didn't have access to until a few years later. I'll never forget that quote for as long as I live. I've read many of his books since then, and found an interesting page on the internet called "Thomas Merton's Red Diary", with his handwritten notes: http://beck.library.emory.edu/merton/

    have you ever seen that before?

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  12. I like CONJECTURES a lot too, Pia. In fact, my copy is in pieces now :-) ... I seem to remember seeing that Red Diary site. It's pretty interesting to see Merton's handwriting.

    On my next trip to KY I'm going to visit the Merton Center in Louisville. I'm especially interested in the Jubilee magazines, but I'd like to browse around the other stuff too.

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