photo by Thomas Merton, December 6, 1968 - Bangkok
When John Howard Griffin’s camera was returned to him from Gethsemani after Merton’s death, he found that there was still film in it.
Griffin carefully developed the film and discovered a scene viewed from some high place, downward past the edge of a building and a foreground of shore across a broad body of water from which reflected sunlight glinted back into the viewer’s eyes – a universal, all–embracing view of men and boats and water, seen from the perspective of height and distance.
Merton had taken the photograph looking down from his penthouse room at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok on December 6th (3 days before his death).
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander was published in 1966. In this book Merton recounts a dream:
“I dreamt I was lost in a great city and was walking “toward the center” without quite knowing where I was going. Suddenly I came to a dead end, but on a height, looking at a great bay, an arm of the harbor. I saw a whole section of the city spread out before me on the hills covered with light snow, and realized that, though I had far to go, I knew where I was: because in this city there are two arms of the harbor and they help you to find your way, as you are always encountering them.” (Conjectures, 188-189)I had been looking for this photograph for some time. I found it on the last page of “A Hidden Wholeness/The Visual World of Thomas Merton”, a collection of photos by Merton and Griffin which was published in 1970. The book is now out of print and I have no idea what kind of copyright laws (if any) I may be breaking in posting a scanned copy of that photo here.