The Birds and Streams – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

download (9)1. The more we are united with one another

“This unity is something we cannot yet realize and enjoy except in the darkness of faith. But even here the more we are one with God the more we are united with one another; and the silence of contemplation is deep, rich and endless society, not only with God but with men. The contemplative is not isolated in himself, but liberated from his external and egotistic self by humility and purity of heart – therefore there is no longer any serious obstacle to simple and humble love of other men.”

2. The root of all war

“For only love – which means humility – can exorcise the fear which is at the root of all war.”

3. A society of salesman, advertisers and consumers

“The contemplative life certainly does not demand a self-righteous contempt for the habits and diversions of ordinary people. But nevertheless, no man who seeks liberation and light in solitude, no man who seeks spiritual freedom, can afford to yield passively to all the appeals of a society of salesmen, advertisers and consumers. There is no doubt that life cannot be lived on a human level without certain legitimate pleasures. But to say that all pleasures which offer themselves to us as necessities are now ‘legitimate’ is quite another story. A natural pleasure is one thing: an unnatural pleasure, forced upon the satiated mind by the importunity of a salesman is quite another.”

4. Compassion, mercy and pardon

“The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else. It gives them a clarity of compassion that can find good in the most terrible criminals. It delivers them from the burden of judging others, condemning other men. It teaches them to bring the good out of others by compassion, mercy and pardon…”

5. Cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be

“In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live I have to die.”

6. Wait in silence

“It is good to wait in silence…”

7. The birds and streams

“It is God’s love that speaks to me in the birds and streams…”

8. Can never be the object of calculated ambition

“But contemplation can never be the object of calculated ambition. It is not something we plan to obtain with our practical reason, but the living water of the spirit that we thirst for, like a hunted deer thirsting after a river in the wilderness.”

9. Hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized

“For contemplation cannot be taught. It cannot even be clearly explained. It can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized…”

10. Refuse the fullness of my existence

“Not to accept and love and do God’s will is to refuse the fullness of my existence.”

Do we see God in the ordinary things of life?

Purchase New Seeds of Contemplation

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