I Do Not Know the Meaning of Love – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Journals
by Mark Votava
1. God in us
“Above all, importance of knowing and following the voice of one’s own heart, one’s own secret: God in us.” October 31, 1966 Learning to Love
2. A totalitarian society
“…this is a totalitarian society in which freedom is pure illusion.” May 28, 1968 The Other Side of the Mountain
3. I want to give God everything
“’I want to give God everything.’ Until now I really have not, I think. Or perhaps in a way I have tried to. Certainly not too hard!” October 31, 1964 Dancing in the Water of Life
4. If we try hard enough
“In society, in the middle of other people, one can always imagine he will break through into other liberties and other frames of reference. Other worlds. But today everyone realizes that this is illusory to a great extent. The solitude of the other is like my own: there is no real way of deciphering it. Except to get down to the same radical desert perspective: what are our possibilities here and now, what do they mean, where do they lead? Nowhere except into another small, slight pattern of other very limited possibilities. But we have trained ourselves to think that we live at every moment amid unlimited hopes. There is nothing we cannot have if we try hard enough, or look in the right place for it.” June 18, 1966 Learning to Love
5. Apparent conflict with certain standards
“There must be no doubt, no compromise in my efforts to avoid falsifying this work of truth by considering too much what others approve of and regard as ‘holy.’ In a word, it may happen (or it may not) that what God demands of me may make me look less perfect to others, and that it may rob me of their support, their affection, their respect. To become a saint therefore may mean the anguish of looking like and in a real sense ‘being’ a sinner, an outcast. It may mean apparent conflict with certain standards which may be wrongly understood by me or by others or by all of us.” January 25, 1962 Turning Toward the World
6. I do not know the meaning of love
“Love is the only answer… What does love mean today? What is its place in the enormous dimensions of the modern world? We have to love in a new way and with a new attitude and I suppose perhaps the first thing to do is to admit I do not know the meaning of love in any context – ancient or new.” December 27, 1957 A Search for Solitude
7. Christ suffers most
“…the saints will come from the poorest of the laity, from the depths of the slums, from the concentration camps and the prisons, from the places where people are starving, bombed, machinegunned and beaten to death. Because in all these places Christ suffers most.” May 26, 1940 Run to the Mountain
8. When I am with people I am lonely
“…it is when I am with people that I am lonely and when I am alone I am no longer lonely…” June 27, 1949 Entering the Silence
Do you get lonely around people?
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