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Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

Biblical Wisdom Day 40 last post on it

via Biblical Wisdom Day 40 last post on it

This is my opportunity to thank you Jonathan for following me for several years and sharing a number of my blog posts through his reblogs.

Several years ago, I met Parker Palmer and thanked him for introducing me to other writers and thinkers, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran priest who refused to not speak out against the Nazis, was imprisoned, and executed hours before the Third Reich was defeated.

In the original post shared by Jonathan, there are several questions to consider and reflection activities and this brings me back to Parker Palmer who introduced me to Thomas Merton who I read extensively.

Yesterday, Kathy and I went shopping at a small store where we are visiting. It has a Christian component to part of their retail focus with many books and I purchased two more Thomas Merton books. Kathy said, “you don’t have them all” after I joked “there is no such thing as too many Thomas Merton books.” The one book is similar to the how the shared post is structured. It is called A Course in Christian Mysticism and has reflective questions to consider in written and oral ways. The second book is called When the Trees Say Nothing: Writings on Nature.

The second book has a short postscript from a section in Hagia Sophia called Emblems of a Season of Fury (p. 61), referring to the etymology of wisdom. It is as follows:

There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.  This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy.  It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.  This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my Sister, sent to me from the depths of the divine fecundity.

We are not outside of Nature and it is not outside of us. We are unified and integrated with the wonder and fertility of Nature, not separate.

Skyline Regional Park February 13

We took this picture in Phoenix. You can see the urban piece in the top half of the picture just short of the far hill. Often, I do not have to go far to recognize Nature is there in the urban sprawl. It does not have to be somewhere exotic and distant. It is where we each find meaningful moments of solitude with and without the company of others. It is near at hand. For me, the questions always centre around “if it is close at hand, how do I conserve what is immediate? How do I become awake to the divine fecundity in my daily, often busy life?”

 

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A Powerful Weapon

via A Powerful Weapon

Eddie Two Hawks provides wonderful quotes from various sources. Today’s is one from Nelson Mandela who was a champion of freedom, compassion, and education. Education is leading others into the world they will inhabit and letting them learn about the world. It is a transformative and just process that continuously act on each person as they act on the world they inhabit.

With each new generation, hope springs anew. Education is not just school. It is as John Dewey suggested one’s whole life experience. Dewey suggested life is a person’s meta-vocation and other interests become vocations. Here, I follow Thomas Merton and Parker Palmer and understand vocation as a calling that most fully expresses who I am.

Teachers and elders play substantial roles in one’s education. Furthermore, education does not cease, meaning others play roles throughout our lives in our becoming educated. It is a life-long process, but not in a slick way summarized with glib cliche, life-long learning.

For me, education is best described in poetic terms such as Mary Oliver asking: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It is a waterfall carving out new space, transforming itself and the landscape it passes through with each passing moment.

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Relative Sanity, Walls and Thomas Merton

via Relative Sanity, Walls and Thomas Merton

Bruce shared insights into how community is formed. He did this through the words of Thomas Merton.

I loved the first two words of the title of this post: relative sanity. Parker Palmer reminds me to be in relationship with others and the world I live in is always relative, but not relative where amoral is the norm.

It is relative based as it binds through common humanity we share with each other. We are related to and relate to each other. Cornel West suggests we are  brothers and sisters  in a genealogical line going back to times we do not remember, yet provides  memory.

Thomas Merton suggests when we fall in love, we are vulnerable and risk being hurt. Living in community comes with vulnerability and risk, as well.

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I took this picture several years ago and the waterfalls remind me of how the river has a memory of where it came from and. at the same time, it carves a new path forward. In carving its new path, it does so in concert with the rest of the world it flows through.

To Discriminate

I will not post this weekend, as I am away. As well, I want to begin writing an article, so my schedule will change next week, but I will be back.

After I wrote my poem yesterday, I thought about what it might mean to live in a different way than I do. I cannot. I do not have those experiences. To discriminate is to see and recognize differences. In a world of extreme ideologies, there are those who simply refuse to see differences as essential to our human condition.

Hannah Arendt wrote about living in pluralism being the ultimate human condition. It is what makes us each a person, separates us in some distinct way from others. It is challenging and unavoidable.

I lived in a small town in Northern Alberta when I was young. We were the only French-speaking family with children in the community. I understand others have suffered more than I ever did. It seems it is only the loud ones with most extreme ideology who act and speak with violence that are seen and heard.

Edmund Burke contended “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing.”

Albert Einstein said “Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge.”

Thomas Merton pointed us in the direction of mindfulness: “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”

I think compassion is being mindful of the beauty we find in the differences of others and the world. It is speaking up and out when we see things done that are not proper. It is in being mindful and present to the Other that we are most human. I leave you with these thoughts.

To discriminate,

To see the differences in the Other,

It is what makes living worthwhile.

Without seeing differences,

The world is a monotone,

A sea of sameness.

Without seeing differences,

The world is extreme,

A dangerous place.

Without seeing differences,

I do not see the exceptional,

I cannot see an Other’s humanity.

 

Work Around Your Abyss

Henri Nouwen wrote about the essential nature of being present, attentive, and mindful to our needs. Like Thomas Merton, he cautioned against being caught up in the quick fixes and materialism of contemporary society to heal the wounds we have.

When we feel pain and are suffering, it is essential to come close to those the wound, working around it until it heals. Unlike contemporary organizations, which are often described as teams, this is the work of community. Frequently, we share pain and woundswith others and it is in sharing our journey we discover solace and healing, making us each whole again.

There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You will never succeed in filling that hole, because your needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it so that gradually the abyss closes.

Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it. There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.

Active Life

I am reading The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring by Parker Palmer. Parker included a number of quotes from The Way Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton, including this poem.

The poem reminds me of how I can misplace my priorities and they can overwhelm me. In the research I did for my dissertation, each teacher described how it was essential to step back from their practices and reflect. Each of them described how human relationships were at the heart of their teaching. How they each responded to their relationships was an expression of who they are as a person and teacher.

In the third stanza, Thomas Merton asked questions about people’s relationship with work. I think the first question is essential. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about weeds as essential to a gardener’s work. When we lose ourselves in activity without time to pause and reflect on what it means to care for ourselves and others as we create, we lose ourselves as the poem points out. When we are attentive and mindful, we nurture the soul, beginning with our own.

If an expert does not have some problem to vex him,
he is unhappy!
If a philosopher’s teaching is never attacked, she pines
away!
If critics have no one on whom to exercise their spite,
they are unhappy.
All such people are prisoners in the world of objects.

He who wants followers, seeks political power.
She who wants reputation, holds an office.
The strong man looks for weights to lift.
The brave woman looks for an emergency in which she
can show bravery.
The swordsman wants a battle in which he can swing
his sword.
People past their prime prefer a dignified retirement,
in which they may seem profound.
People experienced in law seek difficult cases to extend
the application of the laws.
Liturgists and musicians like festivals in which they
parade their ceremonious talents.
The benevolent, the dutiful, are always looking for
chances to display virtue.

Where would the gardener be if there were no more
weeds?
What would become of business without a market of
fools?
Where would the masses be if there were no pretext
for getting jammed together and making noise?
What would become of labor if there were no superfluous objects to
be made?

Produce! Get results! Make money! Make friends!
Make changes!
Or you will die of despair!

Those who are caught in the machinery of power take no joy except
in activity and change–the whirring of the machine! Whenever an
occasion for action presents itself, they are compelled to act; they
cannot help themselves. They are inexorably moved, like the ma-
chine of which they are a part. Prisoners in the world of objects,
they have no choice but to submit to the demands of matter! They
are pressed down and crushed by external forces, fashion, the mar-
ket, events, public opinion. Never in a whole lifetime do they re-
cover their right mind! The active life! What a pity!”

Poems on Love

Rabindranath Tagore‘s poem echoes the words of Thomas Merton: humans fall in love and falling is painful. If rejected, the rejection is painful. When accepted by another, it is true gift that speaks through acceptance and the other’s reciprocity.

Love is an endless mystery is a perfect line. There is no full explanation of what love is and why people love one another. When two people find each other and find love, it just is and is freely given and accepted. There are no conditions attached and its beauty radiates from an internal place.

When we are in love, we express a presence and attentiveness to the other person and objects that move beyond words. Mindfulness is a silent expression of love.

Love adorns itself;
it seeks to prove inward joy by outward beauty.

Love does not claim possession,
but gives freedom.

Love is an endless mystery,
for it has nothing else to explain it.

Love’s gift cannot be given,
it waits to be accepted.

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