Greatest Potential Distraction – 8 quotes by Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts in Solitude

by Mark Votava

41e9ou6sQ0L1. No longer held together by love

“When men are merely submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by automatic forces, they lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their capacity for self-determination.  When society is made up of men who no know interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and abusive authority.  But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, the society in which they live becomes putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate.”

2. We have to risk everything

“And sooner or later, if we follow Christ we have to risk everything in order to gain everything.  We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we can see and taste and feel.  But we know the risk is worth it, because there is nothing more insecure than the transient world…”

3. Let my hope be in Your love, not in health

“Let my trust be in Your mercy, not in myself.  Let my hope be in Your love, not in health, or strength, or ability or human resources.”

4. Keeping awake

“To keep ourselves spiritually alive we must constantly renew our faith.  We are like pilots of fogbound steamers, peering into the gloom in front of us, listening for the sounds of other ships, and we can only reach our harbor if we keep alert.  The spiritual life is, then, first of all a matter of keeping awake.  We must not lose our sensitivity to spiritual inspirations.  We must always be able to respond to the slightest warnings that speak, as though by a hidden instinct, in the depth of the soul that is spiritually alive.”  

5. My life is a listening

“My life is a listening…  Hence, my silence is my salvation.”

6. To love solitude

“To love solitude and to seek it does not mean constantly traveling from one geographical possibility to another.  A man becomes a solitary at the moment when, no matter what may be his external surroundings, he is suddenly aware of his own inalienable solitude and sees that he will never be anything but solitary.  From that moment, solitude is not potential – it is actual.”

7. Greatest potential distraction

“Suppose that my ‘poverty’ be a secret hunger for spiritual riches: suppose that by pretending to empty myself, pretending to be silent, I am really trying to cajole God into enriching me with some experience – what then?  Then everything becomes a distraction.  All created things interfere with my quest for some special experience.  I must shut them out, or they will tear me apart.  What is worse – I myself am a distraction.  But, unhappiest thing of all – if my prayer is centered in myself, if it seeks only an enrichment of my own self, my prayer itself will be my greatest potential distraction…”

8. Gratitude

“Gratitude is therefore the heart of the solitary life, as it is the heart of the Christian life.”

Which quote stands out to you?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.