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Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

Welcoming Arms

via Welcoming Arms

Eddie provides a quote from Khalil Gibran reminding me how Nature welcomes me with beauty and silence, adding to a post from the other day. Where do we each find peace?

There is an echo from Thomas Merton who warned us about the busyness of the modern world, writing in the middle of the 20th Century. With a little effort, we find nature and silence in urban settings, renewing the spirit and the body.

In nature, we have opportunities to hold the wolf of busyness at bay as we experience solitude and peace, which provide moments for deep reflection and introspection.

Path 1

I took this picture of a path that climbs out of the river valley and back into the edge of downtown Edmonton. For me, it is easy to walk these paths and find moments of peace and solitude in the shadow of a large urban setting

Gift

I began reading a book called Thomas Merton—Evil and Why We Suffer: From Purified Soul Theodicy to Zen. The author, David Oberson, explores the evolution of Merton’s view of good and evil throughout his adult life, framed, first, through a mystical and monastic Christian view and, then, a growing interest in Zen Buddhism towards the end of his life.

I have always been fascinated with Merton’s wide ranging relationships, nurtured through letter writing. Some I knew about from previous readings e.g., Thich Nhat Hanh, Dororthy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. Today, I found another one of his relationships; this one with the poet Czeslaw Milosz who lived under Nazi and  Soviet oppressors in Poland before moving to the US. Merton and Milosz shared concerns about totaliarianism, scientism, racism, etc., which I can only imagine would be intensified in today’s global climate.

Milosz wrote a beautiful poem called Gift to remind me suffering that emerges from life is impermanent. In this poem, he reminds me their is always something beautiful and good, as he alludes to nature and creation that emerges to replace the suffering.

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

I took this picture in BC about two years ago. As I walked on this morning, I reached a higher spot on the path and saw the lake in the distance fog covered. Like the fog, the suffering lifts with time and a warming sun. I let go of the envy, anger, grasping to be present when I work in the garden that is nature.

CHANGE OF A WORLDVIEW

via CHANGE OF A WORLDVIEW

Worldview is interesting. I find words, like worldview and mindset, take on meanings based on my most immediate needs as opposed to different, more complex view.

Bruce offered me something to ponder based on the concept of Universal Christ, sometimes referred to as Cosmic Christ. In this, I consider God not as a finite, fixed entity easily imagined and as a complex entity existing beyond my thinking and imagining.

Richard Rohr calls me to understand God and universe as more complex than I am able to imagine. It is OK to try imagine who and what they might be, but they are so complex my mind cannot grasp them. There is always a considerable amount beyond my reach, calling me to resist temptation of neo-Platonic and neo-Thomistic views locking me into finite, fixed ways reflecting my own limits rather than those of God and universe. There is always something “uncanny” and hidden from my view.

Reading Father Rohr, I find echoes of Thomas Merton. Both authors remind me there is far more I do not know than I do and can know. Through nature, God is always revealing and telling me something new, humbling me in the face of my ignorance.

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Kathy took this picture several years ago driving through Glacier National Park. Although the picture is fixed, the landscape itself never can be. It is always changing with snow melting and falling; trees growing, the stream eroding the landscape, etc.

It reminds me of the Herclitus quote: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

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?”

 

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.

 

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