Regular followers of my blog will know that I have an unashamed affinity with Thomas Merton. I recognize his deep spiritual connection with the Earth and how within its rhythms and cycles he is able to fleetingly glimpse the heart of God, the union between Creator and creation. For the many that love Merton, there are adversaries, those who consider him utterly heretical. I suspect Jesus had the same problem. He was hardly flavour of the month with his opponents either. What I feel in my heart and my soul is what counts with me. Does he move my soul? Does he lift me aloft the wings of his vision and understanding to new levels of perception and oneness with humanity and creation? Do his words soothe me when I hit brick walls in contemplative prayer? Does he encourage me to struggle on with surrendering? The answer to all those is a resounding yes. It is in the service to and love of humanity and our Earth that we serve God in action. Work is love in action as Gibran famously said.
I also love Merton for his human-ness which he engaged in, struggled with, developed through…for although he was a professed Trappist monk, he also struggled with all the issues of the world outside his monastery; just like the rest of us, temptation, anger, fear, jealousy, doubt, hatred…the world which we carry within us, regardless of our immediate surrounding environment. The struggles of the world lie within us, not outside us. What we see outside ourselves is our own inner personal struggles playing out on a communal world stage. By the looks of it we are all rather messy!
War without: is always war within first.
And so it is to ourselves we must always look, in order to harmonize our world without. There is no separation between these worlds. If we look at past, present and possible near future scenarios globally…we must truly have some internal clearing out and surrendering to do. It helps not to name a perceived external threat, when the threat lies/originates within ourselves. This just distracts us from working on ourselves in order to achieve what we all say we want…peace. We can shoot an ‘enemy combatant’ without, but we cannot shoot the ‘enemy combatant’ within and that ‘enemy’ will continue to replicate, to grow stronger and bigger as it sits within us. As it grows in self importance and justification it spills ever outwards infecting families, neighborhoods, countries, religions, and ends in endless warfare [how can it end if the root is not cut?], and reinforces difference, division and the need for combat against each other for the sake of difference and fear. This serves none of us within the human family. So who does it serve?…
When one truly enters contemplative prayer with discipline and intent, what horrors we find within ourselves. Monks, nuns, hermits around the globe of all religions will tell you that in seeking peace within we are horrified to find such turmoil within ourselves, hidden until we look deeply, issues that we are invited to surrender up to God…for the good of all. Spring cleaning in the spiritual sense never ceases. There is always something else to let go of, offer up, clear out, and polish. It is a lifetimes work. There is no room for complacency, complacency leads to mental delusion. In the words below Merton portrays the awareness of no separation, no inner and outer, no dividing line between us and other.
My worship is a blue sky and ten thousand crickets in the deep wet hay of the field.
My vow is the silence under their song.
In the piece below he describes the work, our opus, the clearing out until one is empty…because when one is emptied…one can be truly filled.
‘We must respond to God’s gifts gladly and freely with thanksgiving, happiness and joy: but in contemplation we thank Him less by words, than by the serene happiness of silent acceptance. ‘Be empty and see that I am God.’ It is our emptiness in the presence of the abyss of His reality, our silence in the presence of His infinitely rich silence, our joy in the bosom of the serene darkness in which His light holds us absorbed, it is all this that praises Him. It is this that causes love of God and wonder and adoration to swim up into us like tidal waves out of the depth of that peace, and break upon the shores of consciousness in a vast, hushed surf of inarticulate praise, praise and glory!’
And in this lies our salvation and our promised peace that passes all understanding.
Do we want to be part of the problem? Or part of the solution?
Lets get to it folks!