Immense Dissatisfaction – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Journals
by Mark Votava
1. Common illusion and criticism of it
“The contemplative life must provide an area, a space of liberty, of silence, in which possibilities are allowed to surface and new choices – beyond routine choice – becomes manifest. It should create a new experience of time,… not a blank to be filled or an untouched space to be conquered and violated, but a space which can enjoy its own potentials and hopes – and its own presence to itself. One’s own time. But not dominated by one’s own ego and its demands. Hence open to others – compassionate time, rooted in the sense of common illusion and in criticism of it.” November 7, 1968 The Other Side of the Mountain
2. The thought of death
“How often in the last years I have thought of death. It has been present to me and I have ‘understood’ it, and known that I must die. Yet last night, only for a moment, in passing, and so to speak without grimness or drama, I momentarily experienced the fact that I, this self, will simply not exist. A flash of the ‘not-thereness’ of being dead. Without fear or grief, without anything. Just not there. And this I suppose is one of the first tastes of the fruits of solitude… And of course the other thing is that this ‘I’ is not ‘I,’ and I am not this body, this ‘self,’ and I am not just my individual nature. But yet I might as well be, so firmly am I rooted in it and identify with it – with this which will cease utterly to exist, in its natural individuality.” December 4, 1964 Dancing in the Water of Life
3. To keep everybody loyally and happily consuming
“More than half the population of the U.S. is watching TV every evening. Sets in 90% of households. Average viewing: 6 hours a day. Policy of TV industry – standardization – give what offends no one of the accepted groups – business, military. Aim – to keep everybody loyally and happily consuming. ‘Consumership’ and the techniques of manipulating people and order them [to] consume as much as possible… The ‘American way of life’ is the American religion. ‘Religion is America’s most powerful weapon’ (vicious circle).” October 22, 1962 Turning Toward the World
4. I want my solitude to be authentic
“I know I do prefer solitude, and I want my solitude to be authentic…” May 8, 1967 Learning to Love
5. Immense dissatisfaction
“There grows in me am immense dissatisfaction with all that is merely passively accepted as truth, without struggle and without examination. Faith surely, is not passive, and not an evasion…” April 20, 1958 A Search for Solitude
6. One of the functions of the contemplative life
“Perhaps one of the functions of a contemplative life is to help other people, by word or merely by example, to become aware of how much they are capable of loving God…” January 12, 1949 Entering the Silence
7. Nakedness, absurdity
“In a word, what I really need is the simple reality of my own solitary life in its nakedness, absurdity, or whatever you want to call it (I must be careful of imposing arbitrary words on it).” July 10, 1966 Learning to Love
Do you desire an authentic solitude in life?
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