Sentences – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

download (9)1. Risk frustration

“To hope is to risk frustration. Therefore, make up your mind to risk frustration.”

2. Never attempts anything

“Do not be one of those who, rather than risk failure, never attempts anything.”

3. Involve us in struggle

“A ‘faith’ that merely confirms us in opinionated and self-complacency may well be an expression of theological doubt. True faith is never merely a source of spiritual comfort. It may indeed bring peace, but before it does so it must involve us in struggle. A ‘faith’ that avoids this struggle is really a temptation against true faith.”

4. In order to be created

“The poet enters into himself in order to create. The contemplative enters into God in order to be created.”

5. Exercising your liberty

“It is not that someone else is preventing you from living happily, you yourself do not know what you want. Rather than admit this, you pretend that someone is keeping you from exercising your liberty. Who is this? It is you yourself?”

6. To give up resentment

“The most difficult and the most necessary of renunciations: to give up resentment. This is almost impossible, for without resentment modern life would probably cease to be human at all. Resentment enables us to survive the absurdity of existence in a modern city. It is the last ditch-stand of freedom in the midst of confusion. The confusion is inescapable, but at least we can refuse to accept it, we can say ‘No.’ We can live in a state of mute protest.”

7. The present is either in the future or the past

“For ‘moderns,’ the present is either in the future or in the past. They have no present, only a permanently self-repeating state of confusion. But the confusion is punctuated by sharp, practical noises: people announce the date, the hour, the minute of the day. At every instant they exclaim that something important has just taken place, or is just about to take place. Indeed, one is able to ‘be present’ at great events that are taking place. But in the gray, sloppy confusion of jumbled instants there is no longer a present and events are without character or meaning to those who seem to be participating in them. Instead of engaging in meaningful action, we bombard one another with statements and declarations, with interpretations of what has happened, is happening, or is about to happen. We keep telling each other the time, as though time itself would cease to exist if we stopped talking about it. Well, maybe it would…”

8. A victim of amnesia

“Memory is corrupted and ruined by a crowd of ‘memories.’ If I am going to have a true memory, there are a thousand things that must first be forgotten. Memory is not fully itself when it reaches only into the past. A memory that is not alive to the present does not ‘remember’ the here and now, does not ‘remember’ its true identity, is not memory at all. He who remembers nothing but facts and past events, is never brought back into the present, is a victim of amnesia.”

Do you see that to hope is to risk frustration?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist