A Deeper Experience of Life – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Writings – Thomas Merton in Alaska: The Alaskan Conferences, Journals, and Letters

by Mark Votava

Thomas_Merton_In_Alaska1. Community and contemplation

“…community and contemplation and understanding the mystery of Christ are all linked together.”

2. This struggle between trust and mistrust

“We find in ourselves everything that goes against community, and we have to be completely aware of this fact.  We are and we are not communal people.  It is taken for granted that we are all really sociable.  But we are and we aren’t.  We are also weak and selfish, and there is in us this struggle between trust and mistrust, where we all believe and don’t believe.  We trust other people and we mistrust other people.  We are, in other words, full of ambivalence, and we must take this into account.  Things are in reality so much more complicated.  We assume that we are perfectly open and trusting and then suddenly we discover that we aren’t…  This has to be understood.  What we tend to do is to deny this, repress it; we don’t like to face it.  But we just have to face the fact that sometimes we get so darned mad at people, we get worked up about it and we do our best not to show it, but there it is.  You cannot possibly live… life realistically unless you realize this is going on all the time.”  

3. The construction of community

“…what God wills is the construction of community…”

4. Building community on God’s love

“The ultimate thing is that we build community not on our love but on God’s love, because we really do not have that much love ourselves, and that is the real challenge…  It puts us in a position where sometimes natural community is very difficult…  This is a test of faith.  This puts God’s love to the test and it is meant to…  It isn’t just a question of whether you are building community with people that you naturally like, it is also a question of building community with people that God has brought together.”

5. Respecting our differences

“…we have to learn to respect our differences…”

6. A deeper experience of life

“I think we have to be deeper people in a certain way.  Not just deeper in the sense that we are much wiser than everybody else, but there has to be a deeper experience of life…”

7. We are not individuals, we are persons

“We don’t really find out who we are until we find ourselves in Christ and in relation to other people.  We are not individuals, we are persons, and a person is defined by a relationship with others…”

8. We all are really one

“People who love one another very well and know each other very well can disagree and even fight like cats and dogs, but yet on a deeper level they are in agreement because of their love and their knowledge of one another.  So we find in this deepest conscience and consciousness where we all are really one in a certitude which is maintained not by anybody being right but by the Holy Spirit holding everybody together in love and in Christ.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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