Saturday, June 25, 2011

longing and belonging

Photo by Thomas Merton
“Each of us has to look into our dark world, recognize the forces that bind us, the blind instincts, the compulsions which, though they give the illusion of power, freedom, adulthood, ensnare us. We have to fight our way free; renounce the Dark Powers, learn to judge and act from our centre. Only then are we human and personal. This work of self-knowledge is absolutely essential.”
-Ruth Burrows
Guidelines for Mystical Prayer
This is the quote Gerry Straub uses to introduce his blog post today.  He goes on to talk about his struggle to find his real self.  It is profoundly honest and true.  In my opinion, he's getting very close to the central insight of Contemplative Prayer.  Gerry writes:

"... This stuff doesn’t come quickly or easily, which is why we don’t bother with it. I devoted a few pages of The Sun and Moon Over Assisi to explaining Merton’s ideas on the true and false self stuff. Mostly I quoted sources who understood. I had deceived myself into thinking I understood. In truth, my mind kinda got it – but it was just another theory neatly tucked away in a dingy corner of my brain. Slowly, I am beginning to “see” it with different eyes.
Thomas Merton wrote so clearly about deep spiritual things that we think we get it. The fact is his understanding was hidden in his words, which only point the way, showing us the right direction. But we must walk alone. Only God can teach me how to find God. And that reality is why so many true contemplatives are so reluctant to talk about their inner life. They cannot teach us anything – aside from a few techniques to help us get started..."
(Read all of it HERE)

I've written about Gerry Straub - a documentary filmmaker and award winning author - before on this blog  (HERE and HERE).  One day last fall, out of the blue, Gerry called me on the phone and we had a long talk about our similar interests and quests.  Such things can happen when you mention someone on your blog.  Gerry told me that if I never needed anything, I should call him.  I haven't called him yet, but knowing he is here among us gives me great comfort.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the courage to be simple

It takes more courage than we imagine to be perfectly simple with other men. Our frankness is often spoiled by a hidden barbarity, born of fear.

False sincerity has much to say, because it is afraid. True candor can afford to be silent. It does not need to face an anticipated attack. Anything it may have to defend can be defended with perfect simplicity.

-- Thomas Merton.
No Man is an Island (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955) pages 194-5
also in A Merton Reader, ed. by Thomas P. McDonnell, (New York: Image Books, 1989) page 123

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