Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thomas Merton on the meaning of our existence

In the blurb to Thomas Merton's meditations The New Man (1961) the writer says that Merton "shows the conflict between man's exterior and interior identity, and points the way the soul must travel to find its spiritual reality in the transcendent yet constantly present Self of God". A Commonweal quote says that the writer "has acquired a profound understanding of the peculiarly contemporary questions which demand an authentic Christian answer." In the first chapter of these meditations, titled "The war within us", Merton writes on the meaning of existence. "Man, then, can only fully be said to be alive when he becomes plainly conscious of the real meaning of his own find life we must die to life as we know it. To find meaning we must die to meaning as we know it....To find the full meaning of our existence we must find not the meaning that we expect but the meaning that is revealed to us by God. The meaning that comes to us out of the transcendent darkness of His mystery and our own. We do not know God and we do not know ourselves. How then can we imagine that it is possible for us to chart our own course toward the discovery of the meaning of our life? ...Meaning is then not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives. The meanings we are capable of discovering are never sufficient. The true meaning has to be revealed. It has to be "given." And the fact that it is given is, indeed, the greater part of its significance: for life itself is, in the end, only significant in so far as it is given.
As long as we experience life and existence as suns that have to rise every morning, we are in agony. We must learn that life is a light that rises when God summons it out of darkness. For this there are no fixed times."

(c) Photograph "Untitled" by John Robert Lee

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