Thursday, January 23, 2014

Everybody stands on his [sic] own feet



This video shows the final few minutes of Thomas Merton's final talk, given to a meeting of men and women of various religious orders in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1968. The talk, from all accounts, went over like a lead balloon--Merton may have been speaking too academically for his listeners. After this talk, and after saying, "So I will disappear from view...and we can all have a Coke," Merton goes into his bedroom, takes a shower, comes out of the shower, slips, grabs and electric fan with faulty wiring, is electrocuted and dies.

I've seen this video before, only recently aware that it was on YouTube. Seems that it belongs on this louie blog.

I know that Merton was paranoid about being filmed here, the (Belgian?) camera crew focused only on him.

HT: Fr. Jim Martin

16 comments:

  1. Thank you! Any idea where the full video is ?

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    1. No, Mark. I remember seeing the full documentary, about an hour long, but I can't remember where I saw it. It was impressive seeing the very last of Merton. It seems that I saw the documentary online, though, so I'll look around.

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    2. Just saw that it is available on Netflix if you have an unlimited DVD account (which I don't). I may have rented it from Netflix back when they sent DVDs to you in the mail:

      http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Merton_A_Film_Biography/70001732?locale=en-us

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    3. also available to buy on Amazon:

      http://www.amazon.com/Merton-Film-Biography-Alexander-Scourby/dp/B0002B55JS/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1390501660&sr=1-1&keywords=Merton

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  2. Thanks! I own the documentary. I have also read the speech but was hoping to see it in full. The "two legs" idea shouldn't be underestimated from a man who spent years understanding how monasticism would survive in the future.

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    1. I think so too, Mark (about the standing on your own feet). It seems to me that Merton is saying that you know what you know what you know and you should stop looking outside of yourself (into the political or institutional realm) for answers or solutions. Sometimes this is interpreted in an "individualistic" manner, but I don't think that is what Merton is pointing toward at all. So interesting that these are Merton's last words. He was so ahead of his time, and these words especially seem to capture his message for how to navigate future waters.

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    2. I agree, Beth. We should listen more often to what St, Augustine referred to as the "Inner Teacher." He says bluntly: "What foolish oddity could ever lead someone to send a child to school so that he can learn what the teacher thinks?” I think the same can be said about institutions.

      You're right: we should stop looking outside of ourselves for answers to the problems and challenges we face and learn to develop and strengthen what inner resources we have to stand on our own two feet.

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  3. A truly fascinating clip, Beth. It seems to tie in wonderfully with the series Richard Beck is currently posting on William Stringfellow's "An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land"
    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.in/2014/01/an-ethic-for-christians-and-other_23.html

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    1. I'm going to have to start following Richard Beck more regularly, J. His writing is getting more focused. I have heard of Stringfellow for years (from way back in the Berrigan days), but never delved into him myself. I think now is the time, and R. Beck is just the person to lead the way.

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  4. Vintage Merton. Priceless. Watched this clip yesterday at Fr. James Martin's Facebook page. Wish I could watch the full documentary...

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    1. I guess you can't get Netflix in the Phillippines, Matt? You can buy the DVD on Amazon, but this clip is probably the most arresting thing of the whole documentary. At one time I think that I knew more about the company that did the filming. I will look back thru my stuff.

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    2. Thanks, Beth. Unfortunately, Netflix is not available here in the Philippines. But I have an Amazon account. Will definitely check out the DVD...

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  5. Thank you Beth. I did not see this video.

    Is there a book available that would have Merton's homilies?

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    1. Well, there used to be a whole series of tape cassettes with Merton's talks to the novices on them. I think that many of them are available on YouTube now. This full talk (the speech he gave in Bangkok) is in the Asian Journal. I don't know that he gave a lot of "homilies" per se. He rarely said Mass in public - at the Carmelite place in Louisville - and I don't recall that he was a particularly good homilist.

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  6. Now you know media.com has made available some of the novice talks as well as some homilies for sale. If I may, we are very quick to break down "institutions". I think two points are valid. 1. Merton was a monk in the Church. He began to notice that the structures of Buddhism were dismantled and this could easily happen to the Church. Some may argue that it did. He wanted to see the monastic Church survive if the Church itself did not. (as an organization) 2. We must not forget that we stand upon the shoulders of many saints and have mass information at our hands. The Church was created and still maintains a clear path to holiness. That is what Merton taught, nothing new.

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  7. I would also like to recommend Cistercian Publications.com

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