A Desert of Questioning and Paradox – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Contemplation in a World of Action

by Mark Votava

51Xo2PA2R+L._SL500_AA300_1. A desert of questioning and paradox

“Are our efforts to be more ‘communal’ and to be more of a ‘family’ really genuine or are they only new ways to be intolerant of the solitude and integrity of the individual person? Are we simply trying to submerge and absorb him and keep him from finding an identity that might express itself in dissent and in a desire for greater solitude? Are we simply trying to guard against his entering a ‘desert’ of questioning and paradox that will disturb our own complacencies?”

2. A more authentic and honest way

“The question remains: can we adjust our life and our view of our life in such a way that it will be capable of being lived in a more authentic and honest way…”

3. Interior and personal

“True discipline is interior and personal…”

4. The pursuit of power for its own sake

“The great problem of our time is not to formulate clear answers to neat theoretical questions but to tackle the self-destructive alienation of man in a society dedicated in theory to human values and in practice to the pursuit of power for its own sake…”

5. Something essential is missing

“But if there is no sense at all of the urgency of inner development, no aspiration to growth and ‘rebirth,’ or if it is blandly assumed that all this is automatically taken care of by a correct and lively communal celebration, something essential is missing.”

6. Contemplation is a bad word

“‘Contemplation’ is a bad word… We are failing in the prophetic aspects of our vocation. Why? Perhaps because we belong to a Christianity so deeply implicated in a society which has outlived its spiritual vitality and yet is groping for a new expression of life in crisis…”

7. What is meant by openness?

“Now an important question: What is meant by ‘openness’? As a matter of fact, it is not quite certain just what openness is going to mean in practice for contemplatives: that is something we have to discover by experiment…”

8. An opportunity to be quiet, to reflect

“Being ‘open to the world’ means being more accessible to people of flesh and blood… The poor, materially and spiritually. Our relatives and friends. Men and women who are looking for something they need, without being able to identify it precisely… What people seek today is not so much the organized, predigested routine of conferences and exercises, but an opportunity to be quiet, to reflect, and to discuss in informal, spontaneous and friendly encounters the things they have on their minds…”

9. A real depth of interior experience

“Few have a real depth of spiritual consciousness and a real depth of interior experience…”

10. The foundation of everything familiar are menaced

“We’re living in a world in revolution. The foundations of everything familiar are menaced…”

Do you live in a desert of questioning and paradox?

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