Shards, Sweepings, Stealings, Sayings, Secrets

Month: October, 2010

The Friendly Communion Of Silence

I could fruitfully quote so many passages from Thomas Merton‘s meditative book Thoughts In Solitude. These are taken from the third chapter of Part Two, The Love Of Solitude:

“In our age everything has to be a ‘problem’. Ours is a time of anxiety because we have willed it to be so. Our anxiety is not imposed on us by force from outside. We impose it on our world and upon one another from within ourselves.”

“Contradictions have always existed in the soul of man. But it is only when we prefer analysis to silence that they become a constant and insoluble problem. We are not meant to resolve all contradictions but to live with them and rise above them and see them in the light of exterior and objective values which make them trivial by comparison.”

“When solitude was a problem, I had no solitude. When it ceased to be a problem I found I already possessed it, and could have possessed it all along.”

“We put words between ourselves and things. Even God has become another conceptual unreality in a no-man’s land of language that no longer serves as a means of communion with reality.”

“The solitary life, being silent, clears away the smoke-screen of words that man has laid down between his mind and things. In solitude we remain face to face with the naked being of things. And yet we find that the nakedness of reality that we have feared is neither a matter for terror nor for shame. It is clothed in the friendly communion of silence, and this silence is related to love. The world our words have attempted to classify, to control and even to despise (because they could not contain it) comes close to us, for silence teaches us to know reality by respecting it where words have defiled it.”

“Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being. Between the silence of the world and the silence of God. When we have met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men , nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality.”

Solitude And Interior Freedom

“In an age when totalitarianism has striven, in every way, to devaluate and degrade the human person, we hope it is right to demand a hearing for any and every sane reaction in the favor of man’s inalienable solitude and his interior freedom. The murderous din of our materialism cannot be allowed to silence the independent voices which will never cease to speak: whether they be the voices of Christian Saints, or the voices of Oriental sages like Lao-Tse or the Zen Masters, or the voices of men like Thoreau or Martin Buber, or Max Picard. It is all very well to insist that man is a ‘social animal’ – the fact is obvious enough. But that is no justification for making him a mere cog in a totalitarian machine – or in a religious one either, for that matter.”

Thomas Merton Thoughts In Solitude (Written in 1953/54). My edition is a Shambhala Pocket Classic. If ever there was an inspiring little book to put in your pocket, this is it. I love Merton’s inclusiveness –  embracing equally Christians, Buddhists and Pantheists.

Hints And Glimpses

All we have… are hints and glimpses…  Bonnie Thurston

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places. Isaiah 45:3


Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.

Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting. RS Thomas

From Light Shines

This sudden, unsought
gleam of understanding
renders you breathless,
altered in some way
just for an instant,
clarifying for a moment
what you’d half thought
or dimly felt one time
 –  as on the road to Damascus
or to Egypt in flight –
that you’re an unknowing pilgrim
at an altar of pure light. The Solitary Walker
Many thanks  to Andy and his wonderfully understated, spiritual blog Pilgrimpace for inspiring this post and for reminding me of some of  the lines I’ve quoted here.  

Failing Better

“And remember, next time someone tells you you have made a mistake, tell him that’s a good thing, because, without  mistakes, neither you nor I would exist.” Prof. Stephen Hawking

Lost And Confused (7)


Life seems too short

for learning;

the heart too weak

for spurning;

the past too near

for burning;

but this lady’s not

for turning.

The Solitary Walker