Photography by Thomas Merton
“A spring morning alone in the woods. Sunrise: the enormous yolk of energy spreading and spreading as if to take over the entire sky. After that: the ceremonies of the birds feeding in the wet grass. The meadowlark, feeding and singing. Then the quiet, totally silent, dry, sun-drenched mid-morning of spring, under the climbing sun. April is not the cruelest month. Not in Kentucky. It was hard to say Psalms. Attention would get carried away in the vast blue arc of the sky, trees, hills, grass, and all things. How absolutely central is the truth that we are first of all part of nature, though we are a very special part, that which is conscious of God. In solitude, one is entirely surrounded by beings which perfectly obey God. This leaves only one place open for me, and if I occupy that place, then I, too, am fulfilling His will. The place nature “leaves open” belongs to the conscious one, the one who is aware, who sees all this as a unity, who offers it all to God in praise, joy, thanks. To me, these are not “spiritual acts” or special virtues, but rather the simple, normal, obvious functions of man, without which it is hard to see how he can be human. Obviously, he has learned to live in another dimension, that which one may call “the world,” in the sense of a realm of man and his machines, in which each individual is closed in upon himself and his own ideas – clear or unclear – his own desires, his own concerns, and no one pays any attention to the whole. One has to be alone, under the sky, before everything falls into place and one finds his own place in the midst of it all.from “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”, pp. 294-295.
It is not Christianity, far from it, that separates man from the cosmos, the world of sense and of nature. On the contrary, it is man’s own technocratic and self-centered “worldliness” which is in reality a falsification and a perversion of natural perspectives, which separates him from the reality of creation, and which enables him to act out his fantasies as a little autonomous god, seeing and judging everything in relation to himself.
We have to have the humility first of all to realize ourselves as part of nature. Denial of this results only in madness and cruelties.”