Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thomas Merton

"We are warmed by fire, not by the smoke of the fire.  We are carried over the sea by a ship, not by the wake of a ship. So too, what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in our outward reflection in our own acts. "
-  from No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton 

Merton is my favorite author these days. He was born in France in 1915. After living a very worldly existence, and finding nothing that satisfied his restlessness for passion, he became a Trappist monk. He described his entry into the monastery and ascetic lifestyle as an entry into "the four walls of my new freedom". He went on to become a world renowned spiritual philosopher, and wrote 60 books of poetry, meditation, philosophy, and social criticism. 

In  No Man is an Island,  Merton shares his reflections on aspects of his interior life. 

I find his work compelling, probably because the focus of my life seems to be turning inward. As I become more frustrated with the limits of my body, I find myself exploring more of the "invisible depths" of my own being.  Merton says:

"The value of our activity depends almost entirely upon the humility to accept ourselves as we are. The reason why we do things so badly is that we are not content to do what we can."

It is very hard for me to accept my body with it's limitations and weaknesses. In my anger at being unable to do everything that that I want, with the same intensity that I had in my previous abilities, I sometimes push myself beyond my limits, and fail miserably at whatever I am trying to accomplish. Other times I make no attempt at all, and so miss an opportunity to participate in something in a limited capacity rather than missing out completely.

It is hard to find the humility to accept myself for what I am. 

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