Friday, September 11, 2009

The prayer life of a flexible instrument

There are these “drawings” that Merton left behind. Not “drawings of” anything. They remind me of the images that come back to us from the Hubble telescope. Outer space. Are these inner space?

Roger Lipsey says that Merton inked grass and then pulled the prints directly from the grass. On this one he probably layered brushwork with a dense lattice of inked grass stems, which functioned as a kind of stencil. Merton must have been pleased “to create such fragile, temporary patterns of grass. That nearly empty, luminous drifts of energy or matter appeared in prints derived from these fragile setups must have been a shock”.
(“Angelic Mistakes, The Art of Thomas Merton”, by Roger Lipsey, p. 53)

April 3, 1965. “ To be a flexible instrument in the hand of God is a great and sometimes terrible vocation ... We are all in some way instruments. And we all have to be virtuosos at taking a back seat when necessary. Way back. The prayer life of a flexible instrument cannot be well ordered. It has to be terribly free. And utterly responsive to a darkly, dimly understood command.”
("The School of Charity" p. 271)

October, 1968. “You have to see your will and God’s will dualistically for a long time. You have to experience duality for a long time until you see it’s not there. In this respect I am a Hindu. Ramakrishna has the solution. Don’t consider dualistic prayer on a lower level. The lower is higher. There are no levels. Any moment you can break through to the underlying unity which is God’s gift in Christ. In the end, Praise praises. Thanksgiving gives thanks. Jesus prays. Openness is all.”
(David Steindl-Rast, citing Merton in conversation, in "Thomas Merton, Monk: A Monastic Tribute", p. 89)

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