Culture of Imagination

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Tag: Thomas Merton

The Wholeness and Simplicity of Nirvana – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Zen and the Birds of Appetite

51U9ehoviBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The importance of direct experience

“…we must nevertheless remember the importance of direct experience…”

2. The wholeness and simplicity of Nirvana

“When man is grounded in authentic truth and love the roots of desire themselves wither, brokenness is at an end, and truth is found in the wholeness and simplicity of Nirvana: perfect awareness and perfect compassion. Nirvana is the wisdom of perfect love grounded in itself and shining through everything, meeting with no opposition. The heart of brokenness is then seen for what it was: an illusion, but a persistent and invincible illusion of the isolated ego-self, setting itself up in opposition to love, demanding that its own desire be accepted as the law of the universe, and hence suffering from the fact that by its desire it is fractured in itself and cut off from the loving wisdom in which it should be grounded.”

3. The product of Ignorance

“Buddhist philosophy considers discrimination of any kind – moral or metaphysical – the product of Ignorance…”

4. A ground of openness

“The metaphysical intuition of Being is an intuition of a ground of openness, indeed of a kind of ontological openness and an infinite generosity which communicates itself to everything that is… Openness is not something to be acquired, but a radical gift that has been lost and must be recovered (though it is still in principle ‘there’ in the roots of our created beings)…”

5. Contemplatives are always being reproached

“In the East and West alike, contemplatives are always being reproached for idleness, escapism, quietism, misanthropy and a hundred other sins. And more often than not they are accused of despising ordinary ways of ethical and ascetic discipline and of throwing morality and politics completely out of the window…”

6. The dissipation of an illusion

“…the ‘death of the old man’ is not the destruction of personality but the dissipation of an illusion, and the discovery of the new man is the realization of what was there all along, at least as a radical possibility, by reason of the fact that man is the image of God.”

7. Opening oneself to the other

“The only salvation, as Christ said, is found in losing oneself – that is by opening oneself to the other as another self…”

8. As long as we are inauthentic

“As long as we are inauthentic, as long as we block and obscure the presence of what truly is, we are in delusion and we are in pain…”

9. The same Christ who lives in all

“Union with Christ means unity in Christ, so that each one who is in Christ can say, with Paul: ‘It is now not I that live but Christ that lives in me.’ It is the same Christ who lives in all…”

10. The new creation

“The world was created without man, but the new creation which is the true Kingdom of God is to be the work of God in and through man…”

Do you live in the wholeness and simplicity of awareness and compassion?

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To Participate In Creation – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

thomasmerton1. Thank God that I am like other men

“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: ‘Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others’…”

2. Finding ourselves

“If we are going to be personally free and productive human beings we need to recover some kind of interest in the possibility of attaining a relatively human and civilized condition, in which we ourselves can find ourselves and help others do the same. And that we might even be able to communicate something of what it means to attain these goals.”

3. No real access to the truth

“In the long run, no one can show another the error that is within him, unless the other is convinced that his critic first sees and loves the good that is within him. So while we are perfectly willing to tell our adversary he is wrong, we will never be able to do so effectively until we can ourselves appreciate where he is right. And we can never accept his judgment on our errors until he gives evidence that he really appreciates our own peculiar truth. Love, only love, love of our deluded fellow man as he actually is, in his delusion and in his sin: this alone can open the door to truth. As long as we do not have this love, as long as this love is not active and effective in our lives (for words and good wishes will never suffice) we have no real access to the truth…”

4. A failure of love

“Only he who loves can be sure that he is still in contact with the truth, which is in fact too absolute to be grasped by his mind. Hence, he who holds to the gospel truth is afraid that he may lose the truth by a failure of love, not by a failure of knowledge. In that case he is humble, and therefore he is wise…”

5. We are part of nature

“We are part of nature and our knowledge of nature is nothing if not knowledge of nature as known by us, who are parts of it.”

6. To participate in creation

“…to refrain from destruction is to participate in creation…”

7. Cooperation in violence

“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence…”

Do you participate in creation with your life?

Purchase Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Rigidity and Prejudice – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon

81MA-v3wVDL1. Contemplation is the work of love

“Contemplation is the work of love, and the contemplative proves his love by leaving all things, even the most spiritual things, for God in nothingness, detachment, and ‘night.’ But the deciding factor in contemplation is the free and unpredictable action of God…”

2. Our true self

“…we must become detached from the unreality that is in us in order to be united to the reality that lies deeper within and is our true self – our inmost self-in-God.”

3. A life of unity

“The contemplative life is primarily a life of unity. A contemplative is one who has transcended divisions to reach a unity beyond division…”

4. What real freedom means

“It is the contemplative who keeps this liberty alive in the world, and who shows others, obscurely and without realizing it, what real freedom means.”

5. Only from the inner self

“Only from the inner self does any spiritual experience gain depth, reality, and a certain incommunicability…”

6. The teaching of Christ is essentially contemplative

“The fact that ‘contemplation’… is not mentioned in the New Testament should not mislead us. We shall see presently that the teaching of Christ is essentially ‘contemplative’…”

7. The price of our liberty

“At such times, walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods – all can be enriched with contemplation… This contemplation is all the more pure in that one does not ‘look’ to see if it is there… It never attracts anybody’s attention, least of all the attention of him who lives it. And he soon learns not to want to see anything special in himself. This is the price of his liberty.”

8. The paradox of the illuminative way

“The paradox of the illuminative way is, then, that the awakening and enlightening of the inner man goes with the darkening and the blinding of the exterior man. As our inner spiritual consciousness awakens, our exterior… consciousness is befuddled and hampered in its action…”

9. Rigidity and prejudice

“The great obstacle to contemplation is rigidity and prejudice. He who thinks he knows what it is beforehand prevents himself from finding out the true nature of contemplation, since he is not able to ‘change his mind’ and accept something completely new. He who thinks that contemplation is lofty and spectacular cannot receive the intuition of a supreme and transcendent Reality which is at the same time immanent in his own ordinary self. He who needs to be exalted and for whom mysticism is the peak of human ambition will never be able to feel the liberation granted only to those who have renounced success. And since most of us are rigid, attached to our own ideas, convinced of our own wisdom, proud of our own capacities, and committed to personal ambition, contemplation is a dangerous desire for any one of us…”

Are you stuck in rigidity and prejudice in your life?

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

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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Our Whole Life is a Mystery – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The man who lives in division

“The man who lives in division is living in death. He cannot find himself because he is lost; he has ceased to be a reality. The person he believes himself to be is a bad dream. And when he dies he will discover that he long ago ceased to exist…”

2. Something deep in the soul

“As far as the accidentals of this life are concerned, humility can be quite content with whatever satisfies the general run of men. But that does not mean that the essence of humility consists in being just like everyone else. On the contrary, humility consists in being precisely the person you actually are before God, and since no two people are alike, if you have the humility to be yourself you will not be like anyone else in the whole universe. But this individuality will not necessarily assert itself on the surface of everyday life. It will not be a matter of mere appearances, or opinions, or tastes, or ways of doing things. It is something deep in the soul.”

3. Our whole life is a mystery

“What is the dimension of this depth? It is the incorporation of the unknown and of the unconscious into our daily life. Faith brings together the known and the unknown so that they overlap: or rather, so that we are aware of their overlapping. Actually, our whole life is a mystery of which very little comes to our conscious understanding. But when we accept only what we can consciously rationalize, our life is actually reduced to the most pitiful limitations, though we may think quite otherwise. (We have been brought up with the absurd prejudice that only what we can reduce to a rational and conscious formula is really understood and experienced in our life. When we can say what a thing is, or what we are doing, we think we fully grasp and experience it. In point of fact this verbalization – very often it is nothing more than verbalization – tends to cut us off from genuine experience and to obscure our understanding instead of increasing it.)”

4. To become attached to the “experience” of peace

“To become attached to the ‘experience’ of peace is to threaten the true and essential and vital union of our soul with God above sense and experience in the darkness of a pure and perfect love.”

5. The courage to risk everything

“What you most need in this dark journey is an unfaltering trust in the Divine guidance, as well as the courage to risk everything… In many ways the journey seems to be a foolish gamble. And you may well make many mistakes… What matters in the contemplative life is not for you… to be always infallibly right, but for you to be heroically faithful to grace and to love…”

Do you experience your whole life as a mystery?

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A Solitude Of Our Own – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – No Man Is An Island

41tYJhDcp8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Evasion is the answer of superstition

“This discovery of Christ is never genuine if it is nothing but a flight from ourselves. On the contrary, it cannot be an escape… I cannot discover God in myself… unless I have the courage to face myself exactly as I am, with all my limitations, and to accept others as they are, with all their limitations… Evasion is the answer of superstition.”

2. Be true to the ones we love and to ourselves

“Love, then, must be true to the ones we love and to ourselves, and also to its own laws. I cannot be true to myself if I pretend to have more in common than I actually have with someone whom I may like for a selfish and unworthy reason.”

3. Happiness consists in

“Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the ‘one necessary thing’ may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing 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. Everyone has a vocation: to be themselves

“Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself.”

5. Sharing in the common good

“There are plenty of men who will give up their interests for the sake of ‘society,’ but cannot stand any of the people they live with. As long as we regard other men as obstacles to our own happiness we are the enemies of society and we have only a very small capacity for sharing in the common good.”

6. More than a mere turning inward upon ourselves

“Recollection is more than a mere turning inward upon ourselves, and it does not necessarily mean the denial or exclusion of exterior things. Sometimes we are more recollected, quieter, simple and pure, when we see through exterior things and see God in them than when we turn away from them to shut them out of our minds. Recollection does not deny sensible things, it sets them in order. Either they are significant to it, and it sees their significance, or else they have no special meaning, their meaninglessness remains innocent and neutral…”

7. The infinite solitude of God dwelling within us

“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. Our judgements are not in proportion with things as they are…”

8. A solitude of our own

“A person is a person insofar as he has a secret and is a solitude of his own that cannot be communicated to anyone else. If I love a person, I will love that which most makes him a person: the secrecy, the hiddenness, the solitude of his own individual being…”

Have you created and discovered a solitude of your own?

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In Oneness With All That Is – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Mystics and Zen Masters

41WXKyiIpJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Hold instinctively to our prejudice

“We of the West still hold instinctively to the prejudice that our world and our civilization are the ‘whole world’ and that we have a mission to lead all others to the particular cultural goals we have set for ourselves. But the world is bigger than we have imagined, and its new directions are not always those that we ourselves have envisaged…”

2. The true dark night

“The true dark night is that of the spirit, where the ‘subject’ of all higher forms of vision and intelligence is itself darkened and left in emptiness: not as a mirror, pure of all impressions, but as a void without knowledge and without any natural capacity for the supernatural…”

3. In oneness with all that is

“…my ‘identity’ is to be sought not in that separation from all that is, but in oneness (indeed, ‘convergence’?) with all that is. This identity is not the denial of my own personal reality but its highest affirmation…”

4. Contemplation is both a “gift” and an “art”

“…we can say that contemplation is both a ‘gift’ (a ‘grace’) and an ‘art.’ Unfortunately, we must also admit that it can almost be said to be a ‘lost art’…”

5. All religions aspire to a “union with God”

“To put it in grossly oversimplified language, all religions aspire to a ‘union with God’ in some way or other, and in each case this union is described in terms which have very definite analogies with the contemplative and mystical experiences…”

6. Preserving our status as spectators

“Yet we refuse healing because we insist on preserving our status as spectators. This is the only identity we understand. Once we cease to ‘stand against’ the world, we think we cease to exist. Furthermore, we manipulate the world as we contemplate it, we rearrange it to suit the whim and yearning of our vision. Always, do what we may, we are condemned to ‘retain the attitude of someone who’s departing.’ That is to say, we can never really believe ourselves fully at home in the world that is ours, since we are condemned to dwell in it as spectators, to create for ourselves the distance that establishes us as subjects fully conscious of our subjectivity.”

7. Destroying authentic human community

“…the Church must not implicitly betray man into the power of the irresponsible and anonymous ‘public.’ If it does so, it will destroy itself in destroying true freedom and authentic human community.”

8. Free and authentic response

“But maturity cannot be acquired in withdrawal and subjective isolation, in fear and in suspicion. Maturity is the capacity for free and authentic response. Once again, this demands something more than psychological adjustment. It calls for divine grace. And our openness to grace is proportionate to our sense of our need for it. This in turn depends on our awareness of the reality of the crisis we are in.”

Do we live in oneness with all that is?

Purchase Mystics and Zen Masters

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

The Future of Civilization – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

thomasmerton1. We do not attend

“Here is an unspeakable secret; paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it: we are off ‘one to his farm and another to his merchandise.’ Lights on. Clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves cooking. Electric shavers filling radios with static. ‘Wisdom,’ cries dawn deacon, but we do not attend.”

2. The whole idea is preposterous

“…though ‘out of the world’ we are in the same world as everybody else, the world of the bomb, the world of race hatred, the world of technology, the world of mass media, big business, revolution, and all the rest. We take a different attitude to all these things, for we belong to God. Yet so does everybody else belong to God. We just happen to be conscious of it… But does that entitle us to consider ourselves different, or even better, than others? The whole idea is preposterous.”

3. With insight and compassion

“Gradually, by accepting our place in the world and our tasks as they are, we come to be liberated from the limitations of the world and of a restricted, halfhearted milieu: yet one is content with one’s moment of history and one’s obscure task in it. One must be detached from systems and collective plans, without rancor toward them, but with insight and compassion…”

4. The beauty of Christ in each individual person

“You can see the beauty of Christ in each individual person, in that which is most his, most human, most personal to him…”

5. The tempting force of propaganda

“This very special and tempting force of propaganda – that it helps sustain the individual’s illusion of identity and freedom – is due to the isolation of the individual in mass society, in which he is in fact a zero in the crowd in which he is absorbed. It is this simple act of apparently thinking out what is thought out for him by propaganda that saves the individual from totally vanishing into the mass. It makes him imagine he is real. Moreover it gives him the sense of being not only real, but right. It justifies him. To think that there are many people in mass society who consider themselves Christians, and who, psychologically at least, seek their justification not from faith in Christ or from the works of Christ’s love, but from propaganda, which enables them to think out ‘for themselves’ a few simple political opinions that add up to a crusade ‘in the name of Christ’…”

6. The future of civilization

“Can the future of civilization not be somehow directed away from mechanical formalization and spiritual disruption? Or should we bravely regard ourselves as called to abandon light and renounce spirit as superfluous luxury, a remnant of feudalism?”

7. We have hated our need for compassion

“We have hated our need for compassion and have suppressed it as a ‘weakness,’ and our cruelty has far outstripped our sense of mercy. Our humanity is sinking under the waves of hatred and desperation, and we are carried away by a storm that would never have been so terrible if we were not capable of such feelings of guilt about it!…”

What do you think about the future of our civilization? Is it looking positive or negative?

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

Defending An Illusion – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – No Man Is An Island

41tYJhDcp8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. What we actually experience as “life”

“For the subconscious mind is a storehouse of images and symbols, I might also say of ‘experiences’ which provide us with more than half the material of what we actually experience as ‘life.’ Without our knowing it, we see reality through glasses colored by our subconscious memory of previous experiences.”

2. A spiritual revaluation of all that is in us

“Dark things come out of the depths of our souls, and we have to consider them and recognize them for our own… And while we face them, and cannot get rid of them, we realize more clearly than ever before our great need for God… Then begins a spiritual revaluation of all that is in us. We begin to ask ourselves what is and is not real in our ideals!”

3. Spiritually mature

“When action and contemplation dwell together, filling our whole life because we are moved in all things by the Spirit of God, then we are spiritually mature. Our intentions are habitually pure…”

4. Enables Christ to suffer in us

“If we love God, suffering does not matter… Pain does not cease to be pain, but we can be glad of it because it enables Christ to suffer in us…”

5. Do not really believe in their own existence

“The reason why men are so anxious to see themselves, instead of being content to be themselves, is that they do not really believe in their own existence. And they do not fully believe that they exist because they do not believe in God. This is equally true of those who say they believe in God (without actually putting their faith into practice) and of those who do not even pretend to have any faith.”

6. Convention is completely unoriginal

“…tradition is creative. Always original, it always opens out new horizons for an old journey. Convention, on the other hand, is completely unoriginal. It is slavish imitation. It is closed in upon itself and leads to complete sterility.”

7. Desiring to grow in love

“It is by desiring to grow in love that we receive the Holy Spirit, and the thirst for more charity is the effect of this more abundant reception.”

8. Interior purity and exterior attention

“We fail to balance interior purity and exterior attention when, in one way or another, we seek ourselves instead of God. If we seek only our own interests in our work, we will not be able to keep our hearts pure and recollected…”

9. Defending an illusion

“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.”

10. Gratitude for life

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

Do we practice gratitude for life?

Purchase No Man Is An Island

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

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

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