Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: Thoughts in Solitude

We Have To Risk Everything – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts in Solitude

41e9ou6sQ0L1. Christ acting in us

“Actual graces move us to actualize these hidden powers and to realize what they mean: Christ acting in us.”

2. The solution of the problem of life is life itself

“The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reasoning and analysis, but first of all by living. For until we have begun to live our prudence has no material to work on. And until we have begun to fail we have no way of working out our success.”

3. The silence goes dead within us

“It is necessary that we find the silence of God not only in ourselves but also in one another… For inner silence depends on a continual seeking, a continual crying in the night, a repeated bending over the abyss. If we cling to a silence we think we have found forever, we stop seeking God and the silence goes dead within us…”

4. Books can speak to us like God

“Books can speak to us like God, like men or like the noise of the city we live in. They speak to us like God when they bring us light and peace and fill us with silence. They speak to us like God when we desire never to leave them. They speak to us like men when we desire to hear them again. They speak to us like the noise of the city when they hold us captive by a weariness that tells us nothing, give us no peace, and no support, nothing to remember, and yet will not let us escape.”

5. A kind of inner upheaval

“One cannot then enter into meditation, in this sense, without a kind of inner upheaval. By upheaval I do not mean a disturbance, but a breaking out of routine, a liberation of the heart from the cares and preoccupations of one’s daily business…”

6. Constantly awakening to new wonder

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything… Every breath we draw is a gift… Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder…”

7. We have to risk everything

“And sooner or later, if we follow Christ we have to risk everything in order to gain everything. We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we can see and taste and feel. But we know the risk is worth it, because there is nothing more insecure than this transient world.”

8. Rules and ascetic practices

“Too many ascetics fail to become great saints precisely because their rules and ascetic practices have merely deadened their humanity instead of setting it free to develop richly, in all its capacities, under the influence of grace.”

9. Nothing to exploit

“The Desert Fathers believed that the wilderness had been created as supremely valuable in the eyes of God precisely because it had no value to men. The wasteland was the land that could never be wasted by men because it offered them nothing. There was nothing to attract them. There was nothing to exploit…”

Have we risked everything to seek God in everyday life?

Purchase Thoughts in Solitude

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

Until We Have Begun To Fail – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts in Solitude

41e9ou6sQ0L1. Men who know no interior solitude

“When men are merely submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by automatic forces, they lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their capacity for self-determination. When society is made up of men who know no interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and abusive authority. But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, the society in which they live becomes putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate.”

2. The wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere

“If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere.”

3. Humility sets us free

“Humility sets us free to do what is really good, by showing us our illusions and withdrawing our will from what was only an apparent good.”

4. Until we have begun to fail

“The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reasoning and analysis, but first of all by living. For until we have begun to live our prudence has no material to work on. And until we have begun to fail we have no way of working out our success.”

5. I have no idea where I am going

“I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

6. My greatest potential distraction

“Suppose my ‘poverty’ be a secret hunger for spiritual riches: suppose that by pretending to empty myself, pretending to be silent, I am really trying to cajole God into enriching me with some experience – what then? Then everything becomes a distraction. All created things interfere with my quest for some special experience. I must shut them out, or they will tear me apart. What is worse – I myself am a distraction. But, unhappiest thing of all – if my prayer is centered in myself, if it seeks only an enrichment of my own self, my prayer itself will be my greatest potential distraction…”

Have you begun to fail in life?

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 Goodness of All Things – 15 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts in Solitude

41e9ou6sQ0L1. The pleasure of a good act

“The pleasure of a good act is something to be remembered – not in order to feed our complacency but in order to remind us that virtuous actions are not only possible and valuable, but that they can become easier and more delightful and more fruitful than the acts of vice which oppose and frustrate them.”

2. Complain of everything

“There is no neutrality between gratitude and ingratitude.  Those who are not grateful soon begin to complain of everything.  Those who do not love, hate.  In the spiritual life there is no such thing as an indifference to love or hate.  That is why tepidity (which seems to be indifferent) is so detestable.  It is hate disguised as love.”

3. True gratitude and hypocrisy cannot coexist

“True gratitude and hypocrisy cannot exist together.  They are totally incompatible.  Gratitude of itself makes us sincere – or if it does not, then it is not true gratitude.”

4. Life reveals itself

“Life reveals itself to us only in so far as we live it.”

5. My knowledge of myself in silence

“My knowledge of myself in silence… opens out into the silence and the ‘subjectivity’ of God’s own self.”

6. Interior silence is impossible

“Interior silence is impossible without mercy and without humility.”

7. Until we have begun to fail

“The solution of the problem of life is life itself.  Life is not attained by reasoning and analysis, but first of all by living.  For until we have begun to live our prudence has no material to work on.  And until we have begun to fail we have no way of working out our success.”

8. We prefer analysis to silence

“Contradictions have always existed in the soul of man.  But it is only when we prefer analysis to silence that they become a constant and insoluble problem.  We are not meant to resolve all contradictions but to live with them and rise above them and see them in the light of exterior and objective values which make them trivial by comparison.”

9. The silence of God in ourselves and one another

“It is necessary that we find the silence of God not only in ourselves but also in one another…”

10. The heart of the solitary life

“Gratitude is therefore the heart of the solitary life…”

11. All that goes on in the depths of God

“The life of solitude therefore must be a continual communion and thanksgiving in which we behold by faith all that goes on in the depths of God…”

12. Do not flee to solitude from the community

“Do not flee to solitude from the community.  Find God first in the community…”

13. The mirror of God

“We find God in our own being which is the mirror of God.”

14. A perfect act of humility

“A perfect act of faith should, at the same time, be a perfect act of humility.”

15. The goodness of all things

“The further I advance into solitude the more clearly I see the goodness of all things.”

Which quote do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.

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True Humility – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts In Solitude

41e9ou6sQ0L1. The goodness of all things

“The further I advance into solitude the more clearly I see the goodness of all things.”

2. No longer trust entirely in language to contain reality

“Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being.  Between the silence of the world and the silence of God.  When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality.”

3. Ours is a time of anxiety

“In our age everything has to be a ‘problem.’  Ours is a time of anxiety because we have willed it to be so.  Our anxiety is not imposed on us by force from outside.  We impose it on our world and upon one another from within ourselves.”

4. The solution of the problem of life is life itself

“The solution of the problem of life is life itself.  Life is not attained by reasoning and analysis, but first of all by living.  For until we have begun to live our prudence has no material to work on.  And until we have begun to fail we have no way of working out our success.”

5. Mercy and humility

“Interior silence is impossible without mercy and without humility.”

6. True humility

“…true humility can never inhibit any really virtuous action…”

7. Books can speak to us like God

“Books can speak to us like God, like men or like the noise of the city we live in.  They speak to us like God when they bring us light and peace and fill us with silence.  They speak to us like God when we desire never to leave them.  They speak to us like men when we desire to hear them again.  They speak to us like the noise of the city when they hold us captive by a weariness that tells us nothing, give us no peace, and no support, nothing to remember, and yet will not let us escape.”

8. A pretended humility

“It is not enough to turn away in disgust from my illusions and faults and mistakes, to separate myself from them as if they were not, and as if I were someone other than myself.  This kind of self-annihilation is only a worse illusion, it is a pretended humility, which, by saying ‘I am nothing’ I mean in effect ‘I wish I were not what I am.’”

9. To really know our own “nothingness”

“To really know our ‘nothingness’ we must also love it.  And we cannot love it unless we see that it is good.  And we cannot see that it is good unless we accept it.”

10. Laziness and cowardice

“Laziness and cowardice are two of the greatest enemies of the spiritual life.  And they are most dangerous of all when they mask as ‘discretion.’  This illusion would not be so fatal if discretion itself were not one of the most important virtues of a spiritual man.  Indeed, it is discretion itself that must teach us the difference between cowardice and discretion…”

Which quotes are your favorite?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.

51DJfJVBpBL (1)

Greatest Potential Distraction – 8 quotes by Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts in Solitude

41e9ou6sQ0L1. No longer held together by love

“When men are merely submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by automatic forces, they lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their capacity for self-determination.  When society is made up of men who no know interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and abusive authority.  But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, the society in which they live becomes putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate.”

2. We have to risk everything

“And sooner or later, if we follow Christ we have to risk everything in order to gain everything.  We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we can see and taste and feel.  But we know the risk is worth it, because there is nothing more insecure than the transient world…”

3. Let my hope be in Your love, not in health

“Let my trust be in Your mercy, not in myself.  Let my hope be in Your love, not in health, or strength, or ability or human resources.”

4. Keeping awake

“To keep ourselves spiritually alive we must constantly renew our faith.  We are like pilots of fogbound steamers, peering into the gloom in front of us, listening for the sounds of other ships, and we can only reach our harbor if we keep alert.  The spiritual life is, then, first of all a matter of keeping awake.  We must not lose our sensitivity to spiritual inspirations.  We must always be able to respond to the slightest warnings that speak, as though by a hidden instinct, in the depth of the soul that is spiritually alive.”  

5. My life is a listening

“My life is a listening…  Hence, my silence is my salvation.”

6. To love solitude

“To love solitude and to seek it does not mean constantly traveling from one geographical possibility to another.  A man becomes a solitary at the moment when, no matter what may be his external surroundings, he is suddenly aware of his own inalienable solitude and sees that he will never be anything but solitary.  From that moment, solitude is not potential – it is actual.”

7. Greatest potential distraction

“Suppose that my ‘poverty’ be a secret hunger for spiritual riches: suppose that by pretending to empty myself, pretending to be silent, I am really trying to cajole God into enriching me with some experience – what then?  Then everything becomes a distraction.  All created things interfere with my quest for some special experience.  I must shut them out, or they will tear me apart.  What is worse – I myself am a distraction.  But, unhappiest thing of all – if my prayer is centered in myself, if it seeks only an enrichment of my own self, my prayer itself will be my greatest potential distraction…”

8. Gratitude

“Gratitude is therefore the heart of the solitary life, as it is the heart of the Christian life.”

Which quote stands out to you?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.