Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Useless Life

Brother Paul Quenon outside the hermitage;
Several people have referred me to this article published in Parabola Magazine. It is a chapter from Paul Quenon's book, In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir by Br. Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O. The chapter is reprinted with permission of Ave Maria Press.

I love the title of the book and have particular fondness for Gethsemane and her monks.

"This retreat, no rain came all week long until the last day, late afternoon, and then the downpour was gratifying and robust. Eventually clouds broke and sun came through while rain continued, showering sunlight and rain together. I cartwheeled, became a child again, back in my home yard, knowing only this yard as the whole world, suddenly changed into something wondrous. Rain glistened, backlit by the sun, showing every falling drop for all its worth. Rain appeared to be falling from the sun itself. This rain was meant for this space, felt like something made for only here and now. The narrow yonder of the field where trees attend Our Lady’s statue took on a magical, silver sheen where air misted—a lost wilderness, reverting to some ancient, mythical epoch."

Read the whole chapter HERE.


  1. This reminds me of a poem in the book, "The Way of Chuang Tzu" by Thomas Merton.

    The Useless
    Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu:
    "All your teaching is centered on what has no use."
    Chuang replied:
    "If you have no appreciation for what has no use
    You cannot begin to talk about what can be used.
    The earth, for example, is broad and vast
    But of all this expanse a man uses only a few inches
    upon which he happens to be standing.
    Now suppose you suddenly take away
    All that he is not actually using
    So that, all around his feet a gulf
    Yawns, and he stands in the Void,
    With nowhere solid except right under each foot:
    How long will he be able to use what he is using?"

    Hui Tzu said: " It would cease to serve any purpose."

    Chuang Tzu concluded:
    " This shows
    The absolute necessity
    Of what has 'no use."

    Another poem titled Useless Tree is the first at the starting of the book. It ends thus: " Useless? You should worry."

    Makes us go thoughtful.

    1. Makes us go thoughtful, indeed.

      I gravitate toward the whole notion of a useless life. The only way we can pay attention to what is right before us.

  2. "If it is done with outer seriousness,it must be with inner humour.If it is with outer humor, it must be with inner seriousness.Neither one alone without the other under it will do.." This,by Robert Frost; I used to get reminded now and then!

    1. There is always this interplay between inner and outer, seriousness and humor, isn't there?

      Great insight from Robert Frost. I have to remember this. THANK YOU!

  3. yes yes -

    The little ones,
    those with out economic value !
    you can see them on street corners
    asking for money
    on rainy days
    sitting under the eves of buildings
    sometimes drinking wine !

    happy blessings _________________________

    1. yes, yes -

      those fools

      put them all in cages
      so that we can
      feel safe.

  4. yes yes -

    it is the useless ones
    that hold our world
    together !

    blessings ______________


The Stuff of Contemplation (Joan Chittister)

Thomas Merton, Trappist, died December 10, 1968 Thomas Merton entered the Abbey of Gethsemane in Bardstown, Kentucky, at the age of twenty-s...