Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"words stand between silence and silence"

The solitary life, being silent, clears away the smoke-screen of words that man has laid down between his mind and things. In solitude we remain face to face with the naked being of things. And yet we find that the nakedness of reality which we have feared, is neither a matter of terror nor for shame. It is clothed in the friendly communion of silence, and this silence is related to love. The world our words have attempted to classify, to control and even to despise (because they could not contain it) comes close to us, for silence teaches us to know reality by respecting it where words have defiled it.

When we have lived long enough alone with the reality around us, our veneration will learn how to bring forth a few good words about it from the silence which is the mother of Truth.

Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being. Between the silence of the world and the silence of God. When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality.

-- Thomas Merton
Thoughts in Solitude
first published in 1958 by Farrar, Strauss, Giroux
in early editions, pages 85-6, in more recent editions pages 82-3


  1. Thank you for that.
    I claim to believe it - then find myself hiding from the opportunities of silence...

  2. Inspiring post. I too find myself only occasionally practicing what I believe in. I wrote about it and cited you here:

    Thank you for writing such a focused and inspiring blog.


  3. Thanks, JofIndia and Schmudde.

    I have to read this one over and over again, and I still don't think that I've gotten to the bottom of it.

    Just the phrase - "the smoke screen of words" - or: "the nakedness of reality" - give me so much to ponder. The "friendly communion" of silence seems to me to infer some kind of deep, deep dialogue.

    I think that Merton is saying something very deep and almost inexpressible here, but still he puts it all down into words.

  4. greetings

    just a thought

    tom has a problem with the church
    that officially he is not accepted
    but his books brings in lots of money
    which is accepted - i like toms stuff
    and the Asia trip i think to him was
    most important - i lived by my self
    in a barn when the wife went down ths
    road - also lived in a monastery all
    have there problems as life does i
    think some of the feeley good prayer
    and god stuff gets a bit to romanic
    and is misleading as - seven story mountain - it just ain't like that !
    like all people there lots of unhappy
    monks and sisters and problems in the church and merton is no saint but is
    a good teacher and compassionate person this is his blessing to all i think your blog is a blessing to all with all its hard work ---
    blessings ------------------
    bob knab

  5. Thanks for your comments, Bob. Much wisdom there.


God speaks

God speaks, and God is to be heard, not only on Sinai, not only in my own heart, but in the voice of the stranger. — Thomas Merton, Emble...