Growth, Life, Creativity – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

by Mark Votava

thomasmerton1. The greatest revolution in history

“We are living in the greatest revolution in history – a huge spontaneous upheaval of the entire human race: not the revolution planned and carried out by any particular party, race, or nation, but a deep elemental boiling over of all the inner contradictions that have ever been in man, a revelation of the chaotic forces inside everybody. This is not something we have chosen, nor is it something we are free to avoid.”

2. The preposterous idea of “worthiness”

“God is asking of me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of all my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness. And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous idea of ‘worthiness.’”

3. Courage to face risk

“In a time of drastic change one can be too preoccupied with what is ending or too obsessed with what seems to be beginning. In either case one loses touch with the present and with its obscure but dynamic possibilities. What really matters is openness, readiness, attention, courage to face risk. You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope. In such an event, courage is the authentic form taken by love.”

4. Do no honor to the truth

“I will continue to do what I can with the little faith I have, because to pretend I had more would do no honor to the truth…”

5. To reject love

“Beware of the temptation to refuse love, to reject love, for ostensibly ‘spiritual motives.’ Consider the awful sterility of those who, claiming to love God, have in reality dispensed themselves from all obligations to love anyone, and have remained inert and stunted in a little circle of abstract, petty concerns involving themselves and a few others as sterile as themselves!”

6. The dawn breath

“Without the night spirit, the dawn breath, silence, passivity, rest, man’s nature cannot be itself…”

7. The final exaltation of our culture

“This is the final exaltation of our culture: individualism, comfort, security, and to hell with everybody else…”

8. Growth, life, creativity

“My being is given me not simply as an arbitrary and inscrutable affliction, but as a source of joy, growth, life, creativity, and fulfillment. But the decision to take existence only as an affliction is left to me.”

9. An extension of our attitude toward ourselves

“Should I really experience nature as alien and heartless? Should I be prepared to imagine that this alienation from nature is real, and that an attitude of sympathy, of oneness with it, is only imaginary? On the contrary – we have a choice of projections. Our attitude toward nature is simply an extension of our attitude toward ourselves, and toward one another. We are free to be at peace with ourselves and others, and also with nature.”

Have you been pursuing growth, life, and creativity?

Purchase Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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