Monday, August 13, 2007

note on the notes

As I work my way through Merton’s thoughts on solitude, I’m putting quotes out here. I’m not sure where it’s going – I don’t have any set theory that I’m working toward – but I get inklings as I read that I don’t want to lose.

As most of you know, Merton is my teacher and I use this blog as a way to explore and listen to him. I love your comments; in many ways they open whole new ways of seeing and hearing Merton’s words.

“Notes on a Philosophy of Solitude” is a complex essay, dense with insights that seemingly are going off in a lot of different directions. I’m hoping to get to the bottom of this, but I may have to leave it for awhile and come back later.


  1. Hi Beth,
    I know what you mean when you say that you might have to leave it for awhile and come back later.
    Last week I found myself despondent and feeling hopeless as I thought to myself, nothing has changed, Merton spent the last 27 years of his life committed to God and peace here on earth. He did not hide in his faith. He went public. He exposed himself to all of the hatred and criticisim of the the world and he stayed strong and committed to his beliefs. His writing has inspired millions to live better lives,(including myself) aware of the presence of God that is always with them.
    But then I looked at Iraq, the whole middle east and our policy toward "them" I looked at our own poverty here in the states, our insufficient health care system. I thought about the "American way of life" and it just disgusted me. These are all things that Merton would be just horrified about. This is when I started down that hopeless road of "whats the ----ing point? What difference am I ever going to make?
    So, after a big fight with my wife over me "Isolating myself" I gathered up all of my books into a huge black garbage bag and tossed them into the back of a big closet.
    I needed a break.
    After a little bit of thinking I realized that I had fallen into the "finger pointing to the moon" trap. I was so focused on the finger, I was missing the moon.
    This led to the realization that I was becoming way to attached to Merton's writing. He would be so dissapointed!
    I knew that I needed to come back to my core, or what I felt that I knew for sure about myself and my relationship with God. There is a prayer that I say everyday and it always gives me comfort and understanding. It is the second paragraph of page 66, Thoughts in Solitude.
    O great God, Father of all things, Whose infinite light is darkness to me, Whose immensity is to me as the void, You have called me forth out of yourself because You love me in yourself, and I am a transient expression of Your inexhaustible and eternal reality. I could not know You, I would be lost in this darkness, I would fall away from You into this void, if You did not hold me to Yourself in the Heart of Your only begotten Son.
    This prayer says it all to me. As a person with a Buddhist background, the line, "and I am a transient expression of Your inexhaustible and eternal reality" stood out to me first. Then I studied the paragraph and really felt what it means. Anyway, you said take as much space as I wanted here!
    Yesterday I dug through my bag of books and brought back Thoughts in Solitude and Disputed Questions to my bedside. Ahhhh, I feel much better now.
    Thank you

  2. thanks for this, Sean. I needed it ... all of it!!! The space is yours :-)



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