Sunday, January 21, 2007

the transformation of simple, unnoticed things

Thomas Merton' worktable at the hermitage
Photo by Thomas Merton

Merton's worktable was a copy of one that his friend, Victor Hammer (artist and printmaker) had at his print shop in Lexington. The redwood table was modeled on a Shaker schoolboy's desk.

As points of departure for his art, Merton gathered grass stems from outside the hermitage, mailing envelopes, and stray objects that he found along the way. He used Higgins India Ink, a common American product, which can be seen in the photo above.

"It all cleared up after High Mass when I saw my only solution is to do what I have always wanted to do, always known I should do, always been called to do: follow the way of emptiness and nothingness, read more of the "nothing" books than those of others, forget my preoccupation with ten thousand absurdities, to know without wanting to be an authority." ("Turning Toward the World", p. 135)


  1. Beth, I'm slowlyyyyy reading Angleic Mistakes, I'm impressed by his art as I haven't an artisic bone in my body! The text is helpful too as I am no art critic! I was in Chicago during Christmas week as was able to visit Loyola Univ. art museum to see 35 of Mertons zen photographs which were part of a larger exhibit on the Dalai Lama. If your a real Merton nut, have you ever seen the website where you can buy photos and even a teeshirt with his picture on it?

  2. I hadn't seen that site before, John. (maybe I'm not a real Merton "nut"). Actually, I guess I'm kind of a Merton "snob" :-) Merton has been a part of my life from as long as I can remember, and his rock star status is a little strange to me. I often feel that many of the Merton "fans" have not taken the time to read Merton. But who am I to say what's going on?

    Who would’ve thought that Merton, who wanted to disappear and be nothing, would have his image reproduced on t-shirts!? I bet he’s having a good Zen-enlightened laugh over that!

    I am intrigued with Merton's art, which is new to me. He was a complex man with a "big" artistic and poetic nature. All of this with a "big" space within himself for God. An unusual combination for a monk, and I'd say he broke some new ground, or at least was able to articulate it in a way that I've not found elsewhere. For our times, his voice is profoundly relevant, yet rooted in something ancient.

    I'm glad you're enjoying "Angelic Mistakes", John. I appreciate your comments. I'll probably continue to explore this ...


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