The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journalsby Thomas Merton
In this diary-like memoir, composed of his most poignant and insightful journal entries, The Intimate Merton lays bare the steep ways of Thomas Merton's spiritual path. Culled from the seven volumes of his personal journals, this twenty nine year chronicle deepens and extends the story Thomas Merton recounted and made famous in The Seven Storey/em>
In this diary-like memoir, composed of his most poignant and insightful journal entries, The Intimate Merton lays bare the steep ways of Thomas Merton's spiritual path. Culled from the seven volumes of his personal journals, this twenty nine year chronicle deepens and extends the story Thomas Merton recounted and made famous in The Seven Storey Mountain. This book is the spiritual autobiography of our century's most celebrated monk -- the wisdom gained from the personal experience of an enduring spiritual teacher. Here is Merton's account of his life's major challenges, his confrontations with monastic and church hierarchies, his interaction with religious traditions east and west, and his antiwar and civil-rights activities. In The Intimate Merton we engage a writer's art of "confession and witness" as he searches for a contemporary, authentic, and global spirituality.
Recounting Merton's earliest days in the monastery to his journey east to meet the Dalai Lama, The Intimate Merton captures the essence of what makes Thomas Merton's life journey so perennially relevant.
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Read an Excerpt
The Story of a Vocation
October 1, 1939. 35 Perry Street. New York City
Today has the smells of a feast. A girl sitting opposite me in the restaurant at breakfast: some perfume on that reminded me of several things. First, the perfume and the softness and complexion of her skin reminded me of a whole class of girls I had been in love with from fourteen on. The kind that are rather thin than plump, rather blonde than dark, who seem at the same time soft and sad, their sadness, a kind of mystery, a melancholy which makes them appear intelligent and good.
Then the perfume too reminded me of all sorts of Sundays and feasts and the rich smells going with them at Douglaston. The smell of powder and perfume in my Grandmother's room. The smell of the same room, with all the heat on in the morning, with my Grandfather having breakfast in bed: the room smelling of perfume, powder, cold cream, radiator heat, fried eggs, toast, strong coffee. All at once.
Other feast smells: Brilliantine I bought in Bermuda this year. Good, fat, lavender smell. Means sun and the white coral houses and the dark cedars. That nostalgia is now complicated by the fact that there's no going to Bermuda now, because of the war.
Feast smells at Douglaston: cigar smoke, meaning Uncle Charles and the funny sheets (he bought the Tribune: Pop took the Times). Candy. Smell of dinners, of course. Smell of Christmas tree, noise of steam chirping in the radiator, at the sametime.
Outside now it is raining.
Noises of a cocktail shaker at Douglaston, first with a martini being stirred in it, then with something being shaken in it. Generally, sun outside, or late slanting sun through the French windows.
Noise of a toy electric train going around its tracks. Noise of winding up a clockwork locomotive -- slower turn of the key, thickening catch of the spring.
Noise of the cook chopping or pounding things in the kitchen.
Noise of tires singing past the house on the road outside, in winter or in autumn when the road is light and bare and hard.
Noise of a fire, cracking and snapping in the grate, just lit. The sheaves of sparks that rush up the chimney from time to time.
Noise of the dog jumping up inside the door and scratching on it as you come up the steps.
Noise of Pop walking upstairs, beating with his hand on the banister halfway between the beats of his feet on the hollow-sounding wooden steps.
Noises of someone (never me!) shoveling coal into the furnace downstairs, the shovel chunkily bites in under the coal, which smothers its sound: the coal rushing off the shovel into the fire, leaving the shovel ringing slightly, full of a load.
Noise of someone opening up the legs of a card table -- a drag and a sudden catch.
Noise of starting the radio: click of the knob, the light comes on, then half a second later, a sudden swell of hum that dies again a little, while the radio settles down to think up a real sound. After that nothing very interesting comes out of the radio, as a rule.
Noise of the cellar door banging shut: never one bang, but a bang and a quarter because of the bounce. Noise of footsteps on the cement steps leading down to the cellar. Noise of dragging ash cans up the cellar steps, step by step, the heavy, muffled bumping, muffled by the weight of the fine pinkish gray ash. All this took place under the window of the room I slept in: that room was Pop's den. It had an office desk and a swivel chair. Noise made by the swivel chair when you turned on it completely. First no noise at all, then a kind of slight, singing protest. (Noise of the drawers opening and shutting.) The protest of the chair comes not from making it turn, but it is uttered by a tough spring as you lean back in the chair and tilt it quite a bit.
Noise of raking leaves, of mowing the grass, of digging with a spade, of raking ground or hoeing. Sweeping the sidewalk and the brick front steps.
Noise of the sprinkler, as it turns scattering whirling threads of water around the air over the front lawn. Twenty or thirty feet away the leaves of the privet hedge move where you would not have suspected water was falling.
Thank God then for all good smells and good sights and good sounds, but what is the good of being attached to them and sitting and turning over their memory and dwelling on the recollections they bring to you, cherishing a sadness for these things which are gone away? Pop and Bonnemaman are dead, and it will never again be the same as being sixteen and eighteen and living at Douglaston on vacations. What a vanity it would be anyway to moan over the happiness of those times because, at eighteen and twenty and twenty-one, while I was active and rushing about after all sorts of things, who can say those were very good or happy years for me when I was full of anger and impatience and ingratitude toward my family to an extent it is horrible to think about now? Then I was proud and selfish and denied God and was full of gluttony and lust. I was so filled with all these things that even now the unhappiness of them does not leave me at all but keeps forcing itself back upon me in thoughts and dreams and movements of anger and desire. I am still full of that same pride and wretchedness which is very strong and very hard to get rid of because of the strength of self-will which weakens love and prayer and resists God.
But all these things were much...The Intimate Merton. Copyright © by Thomas Merton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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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