Wednesday, June 26, 2013


For security against robbers who snatch purses, rifle luggage, and crack safes,
One must fasten all property with ropes, lock it up with locks, bolt it with bolts.
This (for property owners) is elementary good sense.
But when a strong thief comes along he picks up the whole lot,
Puts it on his back, and goes on his way with only one fear:
That ropes, locks, and bolts may give way.
Thus what the world calls good business is only a way
To gather up the loot, pack it, make it secure
In one convenient load for the more enterprising theives.
Who is there, among those called smart,
Who does not spend his time amassing loot
For a bigger robber than himself?

- Thomas Merton, "The Way of Chuang Tzu" page 67.  [This is the first part of a longer entry, "Cracking the Safe"]

Saturday, June 15, 2013

the Real Thing and to be real alongside it

Dag Hammarskjold trekking in the Swedish far north.

(Photo: Gosta Lundquist, in the collection of Nordiska Museet)

"The mountains became his retreat, sometimes with friends, sometimes on his own - retreat from pressures of work, society, and family, retreat into a world that cleansed and clarified.  An entry in Markings for 1951, two years before he became secretary general, relflects some part of what he found above the Arctic Circle:
Lean fare, austere forms,
Brief delight, few words,
Low down in cool space
One star -
The morning star.
In the pale light of sparseness
Lives the Real Thing.
And we are real.
"The poem suggests the extent to which Hammarskjold acquired a sense of the sacred not only from religious literature and from those around him for whom Christianity was alive, but also from experience in Nature.  The perception of the real, faithfully recorded here, cuts through theory and ideals to make itself known as the first fact. ... In summer he wrote of "the sacrament of the arctic summer night", in autumn of "the opening bars in the great hymn of extinction".

... "The mountains provide a new solitude", he wrote " ... It wasn't solitude for its own sake or in fearful withdrawal; it was solitude for the sake of more acutely perceiving "the Real Thing" and to be real alongside it."

- from "Hammarskjold - A Life" by Roger Lipsey, c. 2013, University of Michigan Press, p. 34

Friday, June 14, 2013

Keep Death Always Before Your Eyes

Brother David Steindl-Rast
[I guess I thought that this blog had run its course, and after almost 7 years I had said all I had to say about Thomas Merton.

Then people were starting to wonder what had happened.  (By the way, my health is ok now; the metastatic breast cancer seems to be in remission and I feel good.)

Almost every day I am ruminating about something "contemplative" that has crossed my path so perhaps the louie blog is a good place to collect those thoughts. 

This is from Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who has done much to foster the Buddhist-Christian dialogue.  I believe Merton met him in California on his way to Asia in 1968 (but I'll have to double check that.)]

Keep death always before your eyes.
—St. Benedict: The Rules: Chapter 4.47
One reason why Christian tradition has always steered me away from preoccupation with reincarnation has not so much to do with doctrine as with spiritual practice. The finality of death is meant to challenge us to decision, the decision to be fully present here now, and so begin eternal life. For eternity rightly understood is not the perpetuation of time, on and on, but rather the overcoming of time by the now that does not pass away. But we are always looking for opportunities to postpone the decision. So if you say: “Oh, after this I will have another life and another life,” you might never live, but keep dragging along half dead because you never face death. Don Juan says to Carlos Castaneda, “That is why you are so moody and not fully alive, because you forget you are to die; you live as if you were going to live forever.” What remembrance of death is meant to do, as I understand it, is to help us make the decision. Don Juan stresses death as the adviser. Death makes us warriors.

—Brother David Steindl-Rast from LEARNING TO DIE, PARABOLA, Volume 2, Number 1: Death.
Photograph: Stephen Weiss, MD, portrait of Brother David Steindl-Rast, Mt. Saviour Monastery, Elmira, NY
 (Source: parabola-magazine)


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