The Friendship of Love – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Writings – The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters on Religious Experience and Social Concerns edited by William H. Shannon

by Mark Votava

51CCCAHK6ML._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_1. The utter nonsense of everything

“But it certainly is a wonderful thing to wake up suddenly in the solitude of the woods and look up at the sky and see the utter nonsense of everything, including all the solemn stuff given out by professional asses about the spiritual life: and simply to burst out laughing, and laugh and laugh, with the sky and the trees because God is not in words, and not in systems, and not in liturgical movements, and not in ‘contemplation’ with a big C, or in asceticism or anything like that…  Certainly not in books.  I can go on writing them, for all that, but one might as well make paper airplanes out of the whole lot.”

2. Love has been buried under words, noise, plans, projects

“…the fact that we cannot find any way out of the suffering, is perhaps a sign of hope.  I do not pretend to understand the situation or to analyze anything…  What is wanted is love.  But love has been buried under words, noise, plans, projects, systems, and apostolic gimmicks.  And when we open our mouths to do something about it we add more words, noise, plans, etc.  We are afflicted with the disease of constant talking with almost nothing to say…  We have to be heroic in our obedience to God.  And that may mean cutting through a whole forest of empty talk and clichés and nonsense…  To obey always and not know for sure if we are really obeying.  That is not fun at all, and people like to get around the responsibility by entering into a routine of trivialities in which everything seems clear and noble and defined: but when you look at it honestly it falls apart, for it is riddled with absurdity from top to bottom…”

3. A compassionate and receptive soil for the future

“…if we can just prepare a compassionate and receptive soil for the future, we will have done a great work.  I feel at least that this is the turn my own life ought to take.”

4. Risk and struggle, and possible failure

“…the law of the spiritual life is the law of risk and struggle, and possible failure…”

5. The friend and brother of people everywhere

“I believe my vocation is essentially that of a pilgrim and an exile in life, that I have no proper place in this world but that for that reason I am in some sense to be the friend and brother of people everywhere, especially those who are exiles and pilgrims like myself…  My life is in many ways simple, but it is also a mystery which I do not attempt to really understand, as though I were led by the hand in a night where I see nothing…”

6. Listening to God

“What is the contemplative life if one doesn’t listen to God in it?…”

7. The love of friendship

“Disinterested love is also called the ‘love of friendship,’ that is to say a love which rests in the good of the beloved, not in one’s own interest or satisfaction, not in one’s own pleasure.  A love which does not exploit, manipulate, even by ‘serving,’ but which simply ‘loves.’  A love which… simply ‘loves because it loves’ and for no other reason or purpose, and is therefore perfectly free…”

8. Far beyond the reach of narcissism

“But pure love, disinterested love, is far beyond the reach of narcissism…”

9. Learning to listen

“And the simple fact that by being attentive, by learning to listen (or recovering the natural capacity to listen which cannot be learned any more than breathing), we can find ourself engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained: the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of Love for which there can be no explanations.”

10. The silence that is printed in the center of our being

“May we all grow in grace and peace, and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being.  It will not fail us…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

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