(US-American trappist, 1915-1968)
Thomas Merton – trappist of the abbey of Our Lady Gethsemani in Kentucky and a brilliant mind – a poet, writer, monk and hermit as well as an important writer in the 20th Century. Ecumenically minded he went into dialogue with important representatives of other religions. For many he is, until this day, a guide in their spiritual search.
We should not go into the desert with the aim to flee from people but rather to learn how we can meet them. We do not leave them behind in order not to have to relate tot hem again but to discover in which way we can do to them what is the greatest good. But, in fact, this is never our first goal.
The one goal that excludes all others is the love for God.
How is it possible that people can live as if loneliness has no importance whatsoever for their inner life? True loneliness is not something that exists outside of the human person. It is not a situation where people or noises are absent. It is an abyss that opens in the centre of the soul. And this abyss of inner loneliness is a hunger that cannot be satisfied by any creature at all.
The only way to find loneliness is through hunger, thirst, simplicity of spirit and a neverending longing. The person who has discovered this loneliness is empty as if he has been emptied by death itself. He went beyond every horizon and there is not one direction left in which he could go. He has arrived in a land where the centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere. This land cannot be found through travelling but by staying where you are. In this loneliness the most essential actions happen. Here you discover how it is possible to be active in an inactive way, to work with intense trust, to keep vision in spite of darkness and – beyond every craving – to come to fulfilment without boarders.
There has to be a room or a corner where one cannot be found and where one can be undisturbed or unnoticed. A corner where one is capable of disconnecting one self from the world and everything that binds human beings with gossamer threads or thick wires. Threads and wires that bind us with eyes, ears and attentionspan to the presence of others.
If you found such a place be content with it and do not let yourself be drawn away from it through so-called good reasons. Learn to love it and go back there as often als you can and do not exchange it too quickly with another place.
My loneliness, though, is not only mine for I see how much it also belongs to others and that I am responsible for it. Not only responsible for myself but also for others.Because I feel one with them, I owe it to them to be alone and when I am alone then they are not ‘they’ but my own self. There, there are no strangers!
It seemed to me that I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depth of their hearts where neither lust nor self-knowledge can penetrate, the centre of their being, the person each one of them is in Gods eyes.
Here the expression ‘le point vierge’ crops up again. I cannot find a good translation for it. In the deepest core of our being there is a point of ‘not-being’, where sin and illusion did not penetrate. It is the core of pure truth, the sparkle that belongs totally to God and that never becomes our disposal. The point from where God determines our lives and that is not open for the playfulness of our spirit or the brutality of our will.
The small core of ‘not-being’, of ‘total poverty’, is the pure glory of God in us. It is, so to speak, His name that is written in us as our poverty, our neediness, our dependency, our filiation. It is like a pure diamant that derives its fiery glow from the invisible light from heaven. It is present in each one of us. If we were able to see it, we would see immeasurable points of licht that come together in the radiation and blazing of the sun that will make all darkness and cruelty of life completely disappear. I do not possess a programme for this. It is a gift. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.
(From Thomas Merton, Een leven lang om geboren te worden. Mediteren met Thomas Merton –Henk Blommestijn en Riet Hoogerwerf. Zoetermeer, Meinema, 2001)