Thursday, September 24, 2009

the smokescreen of words

the smokescreen of words

“We put words between ourselves and things. Even God has become another conceptual unreality in no-man’s land of language that no longer serves as a means of communion with reality.

“The solitary life, being silent, clears away the smoke-screen of words that man has lad down between his mind and things. In solitude we remain face to face with the naked being of things. And yet we find that the nakedness of reality which we have feared, is neither a matter of terror nor for shame. It is clothed in the friendly communion of silence, and this silence is love. The world our words have attempted to classify, to control and even to despise (because they could not contain it) comes close to us, for silence teaches us to know reality by respecting it where words have defiled it.”

- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, pp. 92-93


  1. I don't think anyone has ever said this better than Merton. This is something to be contemplated and meditated on until silence and solitude is fully understood.

  2. The way that Merton speaks of silence and solitude are at the heart of what I understand as "contemplative awareness", Larry.

    You know, in light of all the more recent emphasis on yoga and meditation, it's amazing that Merton rarely mentions such "techniques". I remember him talking about yoga a bit with Joan Baez, but it was not a major part of his makeup.

    He was considered a "master" by Buddhist monks who had been studying an meditating their whole lives. But I don't know if I ever heard Merton even use the word meditate - the way it is understood as a time set aside to "sit" - in relation to himself.

    I think that it was the monastic setting and prayer (as in a desire to surrender himself to God) as well has his ability to write, that gave Merton his unique ability to articulate contemplative awareness.

  3. I realize that meditation is often thought of as a particular technique, where you sit and "do it". Perhaps they should not be thought of synonymously.

    At some point the contemplative way may become part of your life and there is no sense of it being different from any other part of your life. I've never heard of anyone talking about meditation in that manner - it always seems to refer to a technique and a practice.

  4. I agree that talking about the "technique" of meditation can be misleading.

    Like you, my sense of contemplativeness is that it how one is. Kind of like the answer to "how I pray?" - I breathe.

    But it's a shift of consciousness that I need to be mindful of, always turning toward.

    I always appreciate your comments and input, Larry.


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