A Deepening of Awareness – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

by Mark Votava

download (16)1. The self we have created

“We are all too ready to believe that the self that we have created out of our more or less inauthentic efforts to be real in the eyes of others is a ‘real self.’  We even take it for our identity.  Fidelity to such a nonidentity is of course infidelity to our real person, which is hidden in mystery.  Who will you find that has enough faith and self-respect to attend to this mystery and to begin by accepting himself as unknown?  God help the man who thinks he knows all about himself.”

2. To stop really living

“To cling to something, to know one has it, to want to use it more, to squeeze all the enjoyment out of it: to do this consciously is to stop really living…”

3. Our attitude toward nature

“Should I really experience nature as alien and heartless?  Should I be prepared to imagine that this alienation from nature is real, and that an attitude of sympathy, of oneness with it, is only imaginary?  On the contrary – we have a choice of projections.  Our attitude toward nature is simply an extension of our attitude toward ourselves, and toward one another.  We are free to be at peace with ourselves and others, and also with nature.”

4. Meditation on the automobile

“Meditation on the automobile, what it is used for, what it stands for – the automobile as weapon, as self-advertisement, as brothel, as a means of suicide, etc. – might lead us at once right into the heart of all contemporary American problems: race, war, the crisis of marriage, the flight from reality into myth and fanaticism, the growing brutality and irrationality of American mores.”

5. Unless we see we cannot think

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes all political and social life a mass illness.  Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see.  Unless we see we cannot think…”

6. A deepening of awareness

“Solitude has its own special work: a deepening of awareness that the world needs.  A struggle against alienation.  True solitude is deeply aware of the world’s needs.  It does not hold the world at arm’s length.”

7. The strength of God in me

“Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me…”

8. The mentality of a “Christ-killer”

“When will we learn that ‘being good’ may easily mean having the mentality of a ‘Christ-killer?’”

9. One of the characteristics of our time

“We fear the thought of suicide, and yet we need to think rationally about it, if we can, because one of the characteristics of our time is precisely that it is suicidal.”

10. We create problems that should never arise

“So we create problems that should never arise, simply because we ‘believe’ with our mind, but heart and body do not follow.  Or else the heart and the emotions drive on in some direction of their own, with the mind in total confusion.  The damnable abstractedness of the ‘spiritual life’ in this sense is ruining people…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

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

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