Renunciation – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. How to mind your own business

“One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business.”

2. An impatient desire

“Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men.”

3. Become human

“Before you can be a saint you have got to become human.”

4. A dangerous condition of blindness

“When a man is virtuous enough to be able to delude himself that he is almost perfect, he may enter into a dangerous condition of blindness in which all his violent efforts finally to grasp perfection strengthen his hidden imperfections and confirm him in his attachment to his own judgment and his own will.”

5. Whether or not we live by faith

“But when the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light – then we find out whether or not we live by faith.”

6. It is in this darkness that we find true liberty

“It is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find true liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure.”

7. You have not yet begun to live

“Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for spiritual JOY. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and spiritual joy you have not yet begun to live.”

8. Unselfish joy suffers from nothing but selfishness

“Pleasure, which is selfish, suffers from everything that deprives us of some good we want to savor for our own sake. But unselfish joy suffers from nothing but selfishness. Pleasure is restrained and killed by pain and suffering. Spiritual joy ignores suffering or laughs at it or even exploits it to purify itself of its greatest obstacle, selfishness.”

9. True joy

“True joy is found in the perfect willing of what we were made to will: in the intense and supple and free movement of our will rejoicing in what is good not merely for us but in Itself.”

10. Sometimes pleasure can be the death of joy

”Sometimes pleasure can be the death of joy, and so the man who has tasted true joy is suspicious of pleasure. But anyone who knows true joy is never afraid of pain because he knows that pain can serve him as another opportunity of asserting – and tasting – his liberty.”

Do you think that pleasure can be the death of joy?

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