Dancing in the Water of Life: Seeking Peace in the Hermitage: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Five: 1963-1965by Thomas Merton, Robert E. Daggy
The '60s were a time of restlessness, inner turmoil and exuberance for Merton, a time during which he closely followed the careening development of political and social activism Martin Luther King Jr., and the March on Selma; the Catholic Worker Movement; the Vietnam War and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Volume 5 chronicles the approach of Merton… See more details below
The '60s were a time of restlessness, inner turmoil and exuberance for Merton, a time during which he closely followed the careening development of political and social activism Martin Luther King Jr., and the March on Selma; the Catholic Worker Movement; the Vietnam War and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Volume 5 chronicles the approach of Merton's fiftieth birthday and marks his move to Mount Olivet, his hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemani, where he was finally able to embrace fully the joys and challenges of solitary life: "In the hermitage, one must pray or go to seed. The pretense of prayer will not suffice. Just sitting will not suffice... Solitude puts you with your back to the wall (or your face to it!), and this is good" (October 13, 1964).
Making his struggles and his happiness practically tangible on these pages, Merton was never a better writer than in his journals. His gifts are as abundantly clear in this volume as in its predecessors."'Publishers Weekly
"Merton at his best: sophisticated, honest, humorous, and mystical."'Kirkus Reviews
"When all the journals are published, it is likely that they will take their place with the famous journals of Henry David Thoreau, G. M. Hopkins, Edmund Wilson, and perhaps be seen as an American version of St. Augustine's 'Confessions.'"'Catholic News Service
Having spent over 20 years in the strictly communal life of the Trappist Cistercian Order, Merton finally obtained permission to live in solitude. Although this move was clearly a way for him to follow his bohemian and intellectual bent, it gave expression to his deep desire to seek God absolutely, free from the trivia that often complicated life in the Abbey. These journal entries illustrate both modes of Merton's existence. He discusses his omnivorous (and apparently random) reading of such writers as Rilke, Nietzsche, Neruda, Flannery O'Connor, and Simone Weil. He corresponds with contemporary intellectuals, including the Buddhist scholar Marco Pallis and Zen master D.T. Suzuki, even visiting the latter in New York. We see Merton's exasperation with US policy in Vietnam and with the South's racial practices, his excitement at developments in the Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council, and his misgivings at the Church's liturgical changes (e.g., the Passion Gospel read in English instead of sung in Latin strikes him as "liturgical vaudeville" and devoid of imagination). Merton supports the peace movement and distrusts the optimistic clichés of contemporary American culture, lamenting an increasingly Americanized world without cultural roots. Vignettes of daily life in the Abbey and in the hermitage form a background for each of these pages. We see Merton struggling with the mediocrity of his abbot and his own inconsistencies. His relentless introspection makes challenging reading, while his copious allusions to spiritual writings down the centuries open to us the sources of his own rich inner life.
Merton at his best: sophisticated, honest, humorous, and mystical.
Meet the Author
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, writer, and peace and civil rights activist. Merton's works have had a profound impact on contemporary religious and philosophical thought. He is best known for his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain and New Seeds of Contemplation.
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