Know That You Do Not Know – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Letters
by Mark Votava
1. Not of rich and powerful people
“The Nativity of God in the world develops in the history of man. The Christ lives in the history of the people, not of rich and powerful people, not of powerful peoples, no, but in that of the poor…” March 3, 1958 The School of Charity
2. Those who know that they do not know
“Those who know that they do not know, are able at least to see something of what is in front of their nose. They can see a shadow of it, anyway. And they can move with the light and the shadow and keep from getting immediate sunstroke. So we must all move, even with motionless movement, even if we do not see clearly. A few little flames, yes. You can’t grasp them, but anyway look at them obliquely. To look too directly at anything is to see something else because we force it to submit to the impertinence of our perceptions. After a while though everything will speak to us if we let it and do not demand that it say what we dictate.” May 11 1964 The Courage for Truth
3. In the middle of the ordinary
“…it seems to me that mysticism flourishes most purely right in the middle of the ordinary. And such mysticism, in order to flourish, must be quite prompt to renounce all apparent claim to be mystical at all: after all, what difference do labels make?…” December 12 1961 The Hidden Ground of Love
4. Even if our way of life is changed or destroyed
“Like all of us, you have got your faith identified with a certain way of life. But we have to keep our faith even if our way of life is changed or destroyed…” October 29, 1962 Witness to Freedom
5. The biggest intention I have for myself
“You know the biggest intention I have for myself – to be able to give myself most completely to God…” January 12, 1953 The Road to Joy
6. Three or four hours a day of meditation
“At least I hope to devote myself more fruitfully to the opportunities I have at present… I hope to get in three or four hours a day of meditation…” December 9, 1964 The Hidden Ground of Love
7. Attached to our inner egoism
“One must know what are the real attachments in his soul before he can effectively work against them, and one must have a detached will in order to see the truth of one’s attachments. In practice, the events of life bring us face to face, in painful situations, with the places in which we are attached to our inner egoism… Exterior detachment is easier… But inner detachment centers around the ‘self,’ especially in one’s pride, one’s desire to react and to defend or to assert ‘self,’ in one’s own will. This attachment to the self is a fertile sowing ground for seeds of blindness, and from this most of our errors proceed…” December 26, 1962 The hidden Ground of Love
Do you know that you do not know?
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