Are You Seeking Security? – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Contemplation in a World of Action

by Mark Votava

51Xo2PA2R+L._SL500_AA300_1. Most Americans suffer a prolonged identity crisis

“It is quite true that most Americans suffer a prolonged and severe identity crisis and may never really pull through it at all…”

2. A certain superficial uniformity

“We live in a world of chaotic and revolutionary change.  The development of rapid communications and of mass media has insured a certain superficial uniformity in the thinking of the ‘the common man’ all over the world.  And yet can we say precisely who is this ‘common man’?  He has an enormous variety of ideas and influences acting upon him, and often his mentality is an extraordinary mixture of mental clichés that he has picked up at random without knowing where they come from or what they imply.  Yet his mind often remains shallow, dissatisfied, frustrated – unless by chance it becomes simply complacent and passive, habitually reacting to metal stimuli without real thought and without mature response.”

3. Honesty, humility and courage

“There are some problems in life which are not to be solved except by being lived with all the honesty, humility and courage that grace and nature can provide for us.”

4. To be fully human

“Our first task is to be fully human…”

5. An entirely new perspective

“A merely external practice of silence and enclosure will never do anything by itself to guarantee the inner transformation of consciousness which the contemplative life requires.  We have to reexamine all our practices with a serious willingness to admit that our present conceptions may simply be inadequate. They need to be made much deeper and much more alive – and perhaps given an entirely new perspective.  In this way we will show ourselves truly alert to the new needs of a new generation, aware that in this alertness we are being open to grace, obedient to the love of the Holy Spirit…”

6. Renewal is something deeper

“Renewal is something deeper, more living and more total than reform…”

7. Solitude and silence

“The contemplative life would lose its meaning if it did not preserve a certain amount of solitude and silence.  But we must admit that merely keeping everyone locked up is no guarantee of an authentic contemplative life…”

8. Subject to human control

“Unfortunately, we can see that if too many people developed in this way, if entire communities were all at once to reach final integration, the effects on the community structure itself might be revolutionary.  Hence, in fact, our community life is unconsciously organized to make sure that any such development will be subject to human control.  We will not let the Holy Spirit get out of hand!…”

9. Are you seeking security or are you seeking God?

“We have to find out for ourselves what we’re supposed to be doing.  We cannot sit around waiting for somebody else to tell us.  You who read this are yourselves studying possibilities of renewal.  Let me encourage you as a brother to forget about other people who are supposed to help you do it.  Do it yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Find out what you are really looking for in the spiritual life…  What are you seeking?  Are you seeking security or are you seeking God?  Are you seeking pleasant experiences or are you seeking the truth?”

Which quotes are your favorites?

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