Disciplined Experience – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Contemplation in a World of Action

by Mark Votava

51Xo2PA2R+L._SL500_AA300_1. The question of identity

“The question of identity and of meaning in our personal life can never be adequately answered by logic but only by life itself.  Yet we live in a world where words, formulas, official answers and a seemingly logical system may pretend to decide everything for us in advance…”

2. The cultivation of certain inner conditions

“The need for discipline is the same need for watchfulness, for readiness…  It implies the cultivation of certain inner conditions of awareness, of openness, of readiness for the new and the unexpected.  Specifically, it implies an openness to, a readiness for, what is not normally to be found in an existence where our attention is dissipated and exhausted in other things…”

3. True discipline

“True discipline is interior and personal…”

4. The real purpose of openness

“The real purpose of openness is to renew life in the Spirit, life in love.  A greater love and understanding of people is no obstacle to a true growth in contemplation, for contemplation is rooted and grounded in charity.  A more generous sharing of the values of the contemplative life will increase our love instead of diminishing it.  It will also increase our understanding of and appreciation for our own vocation.  Obviously, a great deal of prudence will be required, but we should not be so afraid of mistakes that we fail to make necessary changes.  If we face change in a courageous spirit of faith, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.”

5. I am the world just as you are

“In fact, I am the world just as you are!  Where am I going to look for the world first of all if not in myself?”

6. Can we really decide effectively for a better world?

“Nowadays when we talk so much of freedom, commitment, ‘engagement,’ and so on, it becomes imperative to ask whether the choices we are making have any meaning whatever.  Do they change anything?  Do they get us anywhere?  Do we really choose to alter the direction of our lives or do we simply comfort ourselves with the choice of making another choice?  Can we really decide effectively for a better world?”

7. A certain depth of disciplined experience

“A certain depth of disciplined experience is a necessary ground for fruitful action.  Without a more profound human understanding derived from exploration of the inner ground of human existence, love will tend to be superficial and deceptive…”

8. Rigidity and limitation

“When rigidity and limitation become ends in themselves they no longer favor growth; they stifle it.”

9. In the midst of change

“If we’re not able to be contemplatives in the midst of change, if we insist on being contemplatives in some completely stable situation which we imagine we are going to construct in the future, then we’re never going to be contemplatives.”

10. The imagination is a discovering faculty

“The imagination is a discovering faculty, a faculty for seeing relationships, for seeing meanings that are special and even quite new.  The imagination is something which enables us to discover unique present meaning in a given moment of our life.  Without imagination the contemplative life can be extremely dull and fruitless.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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

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