Sunday, February 11, 2007

Lax - an innate sense of the living God

I have long been fascinated with Merton’s friend, Robert Lax. Merton and Lax worked together on the Columbia University humor magazine, The Jester. Later, along with Ed Rice, they edited the Catholic literary and photo-magazine, Jubilee.

Lax’s writings reveal unique insights into contemplativeness that I want to add to this blog, a little at a time.

Merton describes his lifelong friend as his spiritual superior, a man born with an innate sense of the living God:

“… he was a kind of combination of Hamlet and Elias. A potential prophet, but without rage. A king, but a Jew too. A mind full of tremendous and subtle intuitions, and every day he found less and less to say about them, and resigned himself to being inarticulate. In his hesitations, though without embarrassment or nervousness at all, he would often curl his long legs all around a chair, in seven different ways, while he was trying to fine a word with which to begin. He talked best sitting on the floor.

“And the secret of his constant solidity I think has always been a kind of natural, instinctive spirituality, a kind of inborn direction to the living God. Lax has always been afraid he was in a blind alley, and half aware that, after all, it might not be a blind alley, but God, infinity.

“He had a mind naturally disposed, from the very cradle, to a kind of affinity for Job and St. John of the Cross. And I now know that he was born so much of a contemplative that he will probably never be able to find out how much.

“To sum it up, even the people who have always thought he was ‘too impractical’ have always tended to venerate him – in the way people who value material security unconsciously venerate people who do not fear insecurity…” (Seven Story Mountain, p. 181)


  1. Beth, have you or anyone you know read the recent book about Merton, Lax and Rice? Just wondering if it was worth picking up?


  2. I haven't read it, John, but I'm thinking about getting it.

    Actually, I'm having and email correspondence now with Jim Knight, one of the old Columbia friends, and who went to Olean with them - Rice, Lax and Merton. He went into the service after Columbia and then became a reporter in France, but remained close to Rice until his death a few years ago. He is possibly the last one of Merton's college friends who is still alive. It might be interesting to get the book and talk about some of the things in it with Jim.

    I would like to see more of this Jubilee magazine that the 3 of them edited for some 15 years, but I can't seem to find any copies. Perhaps the book will draw some of its material from the magazine? It seems to me like the kind of magazine that is desperately needed nowadays - a bridge between the religious and the secular worlds. I wonder why there is nothing like that out there today. Everything too black and white?

  3. Beth, Yes, I agree, I have looked around to see if there were copies of the magizine on the internet but I haven't found anything. It would be great to speak with Jim about those days with Merton and Lax...I live a few hours from St. Bonnie's but haven't made it up there yet. It was nice on the yahoo group when Jim Forest was writing in now and then!



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