I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to actually get to reading Thomas Merton’s autobiography. It became a best-seller upon its release in 1948 and has remained in constant publication since then, translated into 40 languages. Merton’s life began in France among artists, was lived out in a Trappist monastery in Kentucky, and ended in Bangkok where he was attending a conference to help find unity in the eastern and western spiritual traditions. Over the next few weeks I’d like to share some passages as I come upon them. Perhaps they will speak to you, as well.
The story begins like this:
“On the last day of January 1915, under the sing of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God and yet hating Him; born to love Him, living instead in fear and hopeless self-contradictory hungers….My father and mother were captives in that world, knowing they did not belong with it or in it, and yet unable to get away from it. They were in the world and not of it–not because they were saints, but in a different way; because they were artists. The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it.”
–from The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton