No Man is an Island – 5 quotes from the book – Thomas Merton: Essential Writings edited by Christine M. Bochen. Celebrating my 400th blog post!  

by Mark Votava

41Y8t75erAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Completely taken up with externals

“The real inner life and freedom of man begin when this inner dimension opens up and man lives in communion with the unknown within him.  On the basis of this can he also be in communion with the same unknown in others…  Possibly our society will be wrecked because it is completely taken up with externals and has no grasp on this inner dimension of life.”

2. Close attention to reality 

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny…  We are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity.  We can evade this responsibility by playing with masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living.  It is quite easy, it seems to please everyone.  But in the long run the cost and the sorrow come very high.  To work out our own identity in God… is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears.  It demands close attention to reality at every moment…”

3. The authenticity of our everyday lives

“Silence has many dimensions.  It can be a regression and an escape, a loss of self, or it can be presence, awareness, unification, self-discovery.  Negative silence blurs and confuses our identity, and we lapse into daydreams or diffuse anxieties.  Positive silence pulls us together and makes us realize who we are, who we might be, and the distance between the two.  Hence, positive silence implies a disciplined choice…  In the long run, the discipline of creative silence demands a certain kind of faith.  For when we come face to face with ourselves in the lonely ground of our own being, we confront many questions about the value of our existence, the reality of our commitments, the authenticity of our everyday lives.”

4. No man is an island

“We must all believe in love and peace.  We must believe in the power of love.  We must recognize that our being itself is grounded in love; that is to say, that we come into being because we are loved and because we are meant to love others.  The failure to believe this and to live accordingly creates instead a deep mistrust, a suspicion of others, a hatred of others, a failure to love.  When a man attempts to live by and for himself alone, he becomes a little ‘island’ of hate, greed, suspicion, fear…  This whole outlook on life is falsified.  All his judgments are affected by that untruth.  In order to recover the true perspective, which is that of love and compassion, he must once again learn, in simplicity, truth, and peace, that ‘No man is an island.’”

5. The foundations of spiritual unity

“If I can understand something of myself and something of others, I can begin to share with them the work of building the foundations of spiritual unity.  But first we must work together at dissipating the more absurd fictions which make unity impossible.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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