Saturday, March 24, 2012

real hermits don't have answers (solitude)

Photo by Thomas Merton
"We must remember that Robinson Crusoe was one of the great myths of the middle class, commercial civilization of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:  the myth not of eremitical solitude but of pragmatic individualism.  Crusoe is a symbolical figure in an era when every man's house was his castle in the trees, but only because every man was a very prudent and resourceful citizen who knew how to make the best out of the least and could drive a hard bargain with any competitor, even life itself.  Carefree Crusoe was happy because he had an answer to everything.  The real hermit is not so sure he has an answer."

-- Thomas Merton, Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude, in the book Disputed Questions (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960) pp. 201-201


  1. If "the real hermit is not so sure he has an answer", I must be in the correct line.

  2. me too, Robert. I've given up on answers altogether.

  3. Life is not about finding answers, but living out our questions. In the words of the poet, Rainier Maria Rilke:

    "…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

  4. Perhaps. And if now, what does it matter?

    Thanks for the Rilke quote, Matt.


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...