Friday, October 25, 2013

Unintentional Guest Blog on Love & Hell

For my close friends who know the path I'm currently traveling, I think these words by Thomas Merton need no explanation.

In fact, if you discover any kind of love that satiates you, it is not the end for which you were created. Any act that can cease to be a joy is not the end of your existence. If you grow tired of a love that you thought was the love of God, be persuaded that what you are tired of was never pure love, but either some act ordered to that love or else something without order altogether.

The one love that always grows weary of its object and is never satiated with anything and is always looking for something different and new is the love of ourselves. It is the source of all boredom and all restlessness and all unquiet and all misery and all unhappiness; ultimately, it is hell.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


. . . the clean, unselfish love that does not live 
on what it gets but on what it gives; 
a love that increases by pouring itself out for others, 
that grows by self-sacrifice 
and becomes mighty by throwing itself away.
~ Thomas Merton 

Dear TM,

In my very recent life I would have read your words, nodding my head in wholehearted agreement, and continued to strive to reach the nirvana of selflessness. And I realize your living of the contemplative life logically brings you to this conclusion. It is noble and admirable and, as you say, the "perfection of love." But contemplate and answer this:

What of those who live IN the world who have less time for contemplation and prayer, and who attempt to carry these thoughts to their self-sacrificing extreme, striving for that perfection? What is to happen to them when they "pour out for others" at such a level that they have nothing left of their "self" to "throw away?" I think in your contemplative life where renewal of self is part of your daily practice, you may forget that the self must be continually replenished and renewed if it is to be able to have anything to offer anyone else. Otherwise, like the anorexic whose body begins to feed on itself because there is nothing left to consume, one becomes an empty shell with very little to offer.

Pour out yourself for me, Thomas, and contemplate that.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Withdrawing versus Escaping

They have not come to the monastery to escape 
from the realities of life but to find those realities: 
they have felt the terrible insufficiency of life in a civilization 
that is entirely dedicated to the pursuit of shadows. 
~ Thomas Merton

At various times throughout my life, I have felt the desire to escape for a few days or weeks to a monastery or cloister. I knew I didn't want to go some place where an elevated entity was going to provide inspiration and answers; rather, I craved a place of solitude, apart from all other distractions, where I could look inside myself and listen only for the voice of God. "Escape" was often the word I used, but I think, perhaps, that "withdraw" is the more accurate term. I should clarify - I have never actually followed through on this "escape."

I became reacquainted with Thomas Merton in a little book (Mornings with Thomas Merton) I picked up at the infamous Women's Retreat mentioned in an earlier post (Days of Wine and Sticker Roses). And this morning I felt compelled to renew that acquaintance with him yet again. 

I find myself in one of those places in my life where the need to withdraw from the pursuit of shadows is strong. I don't envision myself heading off to a cloister anytime soon, and certainly not a (read in hushed tones) Women's Retreat. Nevertheless, I am going to seek some time to withdraw in the cloister of my own little home. The Frau and I have gone our separate ways, and while I find this to be a most right decision, I'm not just bounding off into the future with a carefree Tigger-like spring in my step. I'm going to need some withdrawal time, not to escape from the realities of life but to find those realities . . .  I will share my journey as I am able.