Paul Elie, on Thomas Merton, on Conversation

“…Here was a book that achieved the kind of dialogue to which he had aspired ever since reading I and Thou:  not reformulated thought, but the “spontaneous elucidation of what we do not yet know” ; not thought about what is already known, but “what will come to be known in our saying it to someone who will reply”.   “

from “The Life You Save May Be Your Own:  An American Pilgrimage”, by Paul Elie.   Farrar, Straus, Giroux, NY.   2013.  page 357.

This is Paul Elie talking about Merton’s reaction to Walker Percy’s novel “The Moviegoer”….but now that we’ve mapped out all the literary references, the money phrase is “what will come to be known in our saying it to someone who will reply”.   The remote cause of the insight is Martin Buber, “I and Thou”.

 Great description of what happens in what I’m calling, in this blog, Conversation. Capital C.

Willing To Listen

Thomas Merton claims that silence is our admission that we have broken communication with God and are now willing to listen.

From today’s lectionary (BCP)

Psalm 131

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

131:1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.


Thomas Merton on Integ-rity

“The worst thing that can happen to a person who is already divided up into a dozen different compartments is to seal off yet another compartment and tell him that this one is more important than all others, and that he must henceforth exercise a special care in keeping it separate from them. That is what tends to happen when contemplation is unwisely thrust without warning upon the bewilderment and distraction of Western man.

The first thing you have to do, before you start thinking about such a thing as contemplation, is to try to recover your basic natural unity, to reintegrate your compartmentalized being into a coordinated and simple whole, and learn to live as a unified human person. This means that you have to bring back together the fragments of your distracted existence so that when you say “I” there is really someone present to support the pronoun you have uttered.”

— From “The Inner Experience” I think.

Thomas Merton: closing passage of Seven Story Mountain

“But you shall taste the true solitude of My anguish and My poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of My joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end, and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Christi and St Bonaventure to the Cistercian abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani: that you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men.     Sit finis libri, non finis qaerendi.”

Thomas Merton: “If I can unite in myself…”

“If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russians with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians. If we want to bring together what is divided, we can not do so by imposing the one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other… We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ.”

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1965), p. 21.