The Essence of Life – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Springs of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

41uoFywPbuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Our being is silent

“Our being is silent, but our existence is noisy.  Our actions tend to be noisy, but when they stop, there is a ground of silence which is always there.  Our job as contemplatives is to be in contact with that ground and to communicate from that level, and not just to be in contact with a stream of activities which are constantly moving.  We have to keep silence alive for other people, as well as for ourselves – because no one else is doing it.  We may think people don’t care about this, but in fact they care about it very much.  Silence is greatly symbolic in our time.  Even though there’s talk about contemplative life and its values not making much sense to people today, or not being of much interest to them, this is not true.  Many people are looking to contemplation and meditation for meaning.”

2. The contemplative life will not be applauded

“The contemplative life will not be applauded if it becomes prophetic.  It’s going to be condemned even more than it already is…”

3. Have nothing to do with the essence of life

“Gradually we come to see that these different boxes or categories do not matter at all, they have nothing to do with the essence of life.  That’s why we can be hopeful.  We don’t have to build some great big new thing and then defend from scratch.  If we can get this nonsense about judging and about literal perfection in every little thing out of the way, then what’s real can emerge.  When we let our boxes go, we’ll find the real thing is there.  Just the fact that we are human beings will, with the grace of God, be enough.”

4. Reality is not someplace else

“Suffering in the contemplative life… comes from the conviction that the action is someplace else.  We think that what we do cannot possibly make any sense.  Reality is always someplace else.  The real meaning of the contemplative life is way up there on the twenty-fifth story and here we are down on the ground floor.  We have no access to it…  But reality is not someplace else.  It’s here.”

5. Not really caring much about anything profound

“Not really caring much about anything profound is characteristic of one-dimensional people…”

6. A questioning of everything

“It’s important in the spiritual life to go through a questioning of everything.  Then we can let go of all these questions.”

7. Being yourself

“I think the best way to help someone is by being yourself.  This is the only way we influence others.  Ordinarily, we don’t accept a value unless we see it embodied in other people.”

8. Each person is worthy of respect

“Just to love a person because she is who she is, or he is who he is, and not for any other reason, is genuine support.  We don’t love others for what they do or don’t do?  No one has to pay for being esteemed.  You don’t have to make some sort of grade.  If all the talk about freedom doesn’t presuppose this, it’s a lie or it’s suspect.  People may be odd or different, and even have screwy ideas.  Still, each one is worthy of respect.  They don’t need to fit into some sort of classification before they are respected.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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