Saturday, January 27, 2007

even with motionless movement

"Untitled" brush drawing by Thomas Merton
(image size: 7 1/2" h x 4 1/2" w)

May 11, 1964 “So we must all move, even with motionless movement, even if we do not see clearly. A few little flames, yes. You can’t grasp them, but anyway look at them obliquely. To look too directly at anything is to see something else because we force it to submit to the impertinence of our preconceptions. After a while though everything will speak to us if we let it and do not demand that it say what we dictate.” (Thomas Merton, "Courage for Truth", p. 198)

Notes from Roger Lipsey:
“ … promise begins to be realized … Merton’s brush is now alive, pliant, and quick. We are beginning to see brush-drawn signs of genuine eloquence, sure in motion, sure in structure, at ease with the kinds of things that brush and ink do, thick and thin, wet and dry, contact and release, density and airiness. Merton has moved closer to his models in Zen calligraphy, priest-artists for whom the brush was infinitely varied in expression. And we encounter in this image a key trait of Merton’s visual art: dynamism. This was a man of boundless energy, an his art as it became more freely his own, through technical progress and greater familiarity with the brush, reflected his buoyancy. In his notes, he once described his art as “contracts with movement, with life”. … [His works] convey not thought but sensations of movement, buoyancy, and joy. …”
(“Angelic Mistakes, The Art of Thomas Merton”, by Roger Lipsey, pp. 43-44)


  1. Beth, Jumping from another site....the quote you cited from Dale Recinella about systemic the essay available on-line? It's interesting as it touches on some of the reasons I decided not to work for Lockheed a few years ago...would love to read the whole essay.

    thanks again!


  2. I'm really enjoying getting to see some of Merton's artwork on your blog, Beth. Up until now I've only been familiar with his writings. Thanks!

  3. What a memorable line--"to look too directly at anything is to see something else because we force it to submit to the impertinence of our preconceptions." Thank you again for pulling up such rich and loamy wisdom.

  4. John, I think that I got that essay in an email. I will check and see if I still have it. If you send me your email, I will send it to you.

    Gabrielle, I agree, the artwork adds a whole nuther dimension to Merton's writing. To me, it seems to come directly from his unconscious - Merton had this uncanny ability to give expression to wordless symbols, make them visual and show how they related to each other and threw new light onto things, just like the visual world does.
    His artwork feels kind of like a dreamwork to me.

    Deborah, thanks again for your visit and your comments.

  5. Beth, thanks for your reply, you can e-mail me at


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