Sunday, March 18, 2012

solitude is marked by simplicity

Photo by Thomas Merton
"The emptiness of the true solitary is marked then by a great simplicity.  This simplicity can be deceptive, because it may be hidden under a surface of apparent complexity, but it is there nevertheless, behind the outer contradictions of the man's life.  It manifests itself in a kind of candor though he may be very reticent.  There is in this lonely one a gentleness, a deep sympathy, though he may be apparently unsocial.  There is a great purity of love, though he may hesitate to manifest his love in any way, or to commit himself openly to it.  Underneath the complications that are produced in him by his uneasiness with social images, the man tends to live without images, without too much conceptual thought.  When you get to know him well -- which is sometimes possible -- you may find in him not so much a man who seeks solitude as one who has already found it, or been found by it.  His problem then is not to find what he already has, but to discover what to do about it."

- Thomas Merton, Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude, in the book Disputed Questions (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960) pp. 188-189


  1. This was a good one for me to read. Without claiming too much, I can say that to what Merton is speaking to here I can see hints of emerging in myself. I say emerging because now in hindsight and with some mileage on me, I see that these elements have always been there but I always simply felt "different" or unsure of myself regarding these aspects or qualities that are manifest in me. Today this passage is reassuring and affirming. I like the last sentence although I might change or add "with it" at the end.

  2. me too, Robert - I find this one very affirming, and encouraging.


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...