Saturday, December 11, 2021

Thomas Merton

The influence a person possesses varies widely and in so many ways.  A person can be a great orator, a writer, or gain recognition through their example or work. Thomas Merton was a 20th century Roman Catholic monk of the Cistercians Order of Trappists whose influence comes primarily through his writings. While many of his written works are worth reading, my favorite is The New Seeds of Contemplation.  

Merton was born in France in 1915.  Not long afterward, he and his family moved to New York.  He was widely recognized for his leadership in the practice of contemplative prayer.  He died in Thailand on Dec. 10, 1968, of accidental electrocution.  He spent his later years interweaving Christian thought with Buddhist thought, which is why he was in Thailand. 

One of Merton's many quotes is: "We are becoming what we already are."  This did not mean that we're stuck being what we've evolved/created ourselves into thinking we are (or in being what I think you think I am - ala Jay Shetty.)  Instead, it meant that we are born with the essence of God at our central core, and this life is spent finding our way back to being this central core. I think it would be fair to Merton to say he came to understand all humanity; actually, perhaps, all of the created order we know is grounded in God.  God's "body," so to speak, is everything we see, smell, taste, hear and feel.  My best possible representation is God's action and revelation. 

The impact this perspective could carry forth in this time of steadily increasing greed, self-centeredness, climate change denial, and excessive over-harvesting of natural resources is colossal. God put all that is into existence, expecting it to be self-sustaining.  Human beings' God-likeness was not planned to be at the core of undoing it all.  It is being undone rapidly because many have forgotten what we already are, who we belong to, who we answer to.  Together all things comprise the corpus of a loving God who desires goodness, safety, abundance, compassion, peace, and understanding.  May we become what we already are.

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