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Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton [With DVD]

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Thomas Merton- A Man for All Seasons

    Thomas Merton was a writer and monk who was a man ahead of his time. He could think outside the box of the institutional church. The book accompanies a DVD. The recording has a most interesting soundtrack that sounds like original jazz, the quintessential American music. This reviewer wants to make note of the fact the one of the interviewees in the book was his 6th grade teacher in the 1960's.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    reminiscences of the influential Trappist monk Thomas Merton

    Not as overtly popular as he was in the 1960s, Thomas Merton nonetheless practiced a type of spirituality that is perennially appealing and enriching. The book of reminiscences of Merton by over 20 persons in different walks of life who knew him to varying degrees demonstrates his continuing appeal. Some of these are individuals who themselves are well-known for their interest in religion and influence. Daniel Berrigan was a '60's anti-Vietnam War activist who was a Catholic priest. Martin Marty is a noted religious scholar from the University of Chicago. Coauthor Jonathan Montaldo is a director at a retreat and author of books on Merton. Main author Atkinson is a producer who has done a documentary on Merton shown on PBS. This work of collected reminiscences is a companion to the TV program containing material left unused for it.<BR/><BR/>Merton was a (Catholic) Trappist monk with a searching interest in other religions and spiritualities. His continually growing spirituality--which he wrote about in many books, most notably The Seven Story Mountain published in 1948--was tied in with his moves to different locations and his travels. At the end of his life, he was in Asia (where he died in an accident with electricity) to study Buddhism and Zen firsthand. The material collected by Atkinson as free-ranging conversations for possible use in his documentary is organized according to "four geographical centers of Merton's adult life as lenses through which to see him." These centers are New York City; the Abbey of Gethsemini in rural Kentucky (with which Merton is most identified as a monk and writer); Louisville, Kentucky; and "points west and east" including California and Asia. Atkinson's interest is as much, if not more, a biographical portrait as spiritual one. To each of the four geographical centers, the editor/producer assigns "significant issues of Merton's life"; among these, Merton's "playboy years" when he was at Columbia University, his passing interest in communism, and his conversion to Catholicism.<BR/><BR/>The biographical emphasis does not obscure, though it limits, the quality and dimensions of the spirituality. One would want to go to Merton's books to get the full dimensions of his spirituality. The book of reminiscences, though, like the documentary, will surely awaken interest in Merton as an outstanding cultural figure and spiritual pilgrim.

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