Saturday, February 18, 2017


"I can no longer see the ultimate meaning of a man's [sic] life in terms of either 'being a poet' or 'being contemplative' or even in a certain sense 'being a saint', (although that is the only thing to be). It must be something much more immediate than that. I -- and every other person in the world -- must say 'I have my own peculiar destiny which no one else has ever had or ever will have. There exists for me a particular goal, a fulfillment which must be all my own -- nobody else's -- and it does not really identify that destiny to put it under some category -- 'poet', 'monk', 'hermit'. Because my own individual destiny is a meeting, an encounter with God that God has destined for me alone. God's glory in me will be to receive from me something which God can never receive from anyone else."
- Merton, from a letter written to Mark Van Doren in March, 1948


  1. I think of contemplation/meditation, more specifically, centering prayer (I read a bit about Cynthia Bourgeault's newest book on this prayer, looking forward to reading it and resuming my practice in a better way) helps in moving beyond the categorization TM writes about. And I think of Lax's "waiting". How remarkable it is, or can be, to dispense, at least for several minutes a day, an identity produced by our ego work. I recall that Bourgeault wrote that it's not only the immediate process of the centering but the after-effects, back in ego-life,of being centered and, I'd think, responding to grace.

    1. James,

      How so categorizing?

    2. Mark, to be this or that. I was struggling with my guitar practice today, part of it my body wasn't working the way it had in past weeks, part of it my mind telling me I should be here or there with the practice. I associate this discomfort with TM's words about humility, not accepting where I'm at, who I am. In my better moments, in a "meeting...encounter" I understand and feel my enjoyment of the guitar, not needing to see myself as a performer or progressing as others do, moving along with the slowness that seems to be my path, not putting myself in a catagory. Perhaps accepting myself in this way gives back to God "something which God can never receive from anyone else". J



Photograph of Gal Vihara by Thomas Merton We are all convinced that we desire the truth above all. Nothing strange about this. It is ...