Beauty in Ordinary Things – 13 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – No Man Is An Island

by Mark Votava

41tYJhDcp8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Without hope

“Nothing created is of any ultimate use without hope. To place your trust in visible things is to live in despair.”

2. The right attitude toward life

“If I am to know the will of God, I must have the right attitude toward life. I must first of all know what life is, and to know the purpose of my existence.”

3. A divine paradox

“Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the ‘one necessary thing’ may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinguishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.”

4. A capacity for love

“Both the poverty and the nobility of our inmost being consists in the fact that it is a capacity for love…”

5. True recollection

“True recollection is known by its effects: peace, interior silence, tranquility of heart…”

6. We can hardly see things in perspective

“Recollection is almost the same thing as interior solitude. It is in recollection that we discover the finite solitude of our own heart, and the infinite solitude of God dwelling within us. Unless these vast horizons have opened out in the center of our lives, we can hardly see things in perspective…”

7. Renounce this useless activity

“I cannot find God unless I renounce this useless activity, and I cannot renounce this activity unless I let go of the illusion it defends. And I cannot get rid of an illusion unless I recognize it for an illusion.”

8. God, Who is everywhere

“God, Who is everywhere, never leaves us…”

9. Gratitude for life

“For the full fruitfulness of the spiritual life begins in gratitude for life, in the consent to live…”

10. The value of our own loneliness

“If a man does not know the value of his own loneliness, how can he respect another’s solitude?”

11. Trying to run away from material things

“We cannot become saints merely by trying to run away from material things. To have a spiritual life is to have a life that is spiritual in all its wholeness – a life in which the actions of the body are holy because of the soul, and the soul is holy because of God dwelling and acting in it…”

12. We do not always know the will of God

“It is true that we do not always know what the will of God for us really is. Perhaps we know it far less often than we imagine. That does not mean that we must not seek to know it…”

13. To see the value and beauty in ordinary things

“One of the most important – and most neglected – elements in the beginnings of the interior life is the ability to respond to reality, to see the value and the beauty in ordinary things, to come alive to the splendor that is all around us in the creatures of God. We do not see these things because we have withdrawn from them…”

Have we withdrawn from seeing the value and the beauty in ordinary things?

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