(my granddaughter, Fin, posing the question)
(my granddaughter, Fin, posing the question)
I sweep. I spread a blanket in the sun. I cut grass behind the cabin. Soon I will bring the blanket in again and make the bed. The sun is overclouded. Perhaps there will be rain. A bell rings in the monastery. A tractor growls in the valley. Soon I will cut bread, eat supper, say psalms, sit in the back room as the sun sets, as the birds sing outside the window, as silence descends on the valley, as night descends. As night descends on a nation intent upon ruin, upon destruction, blind, deaf to protest, crafty, powerful, unintelligent. It is necessary to be alone, to be not part of this, to be in the exile of silence, to be, in a manner of speaking, a political prisoner. No matter where in the world he may be, no matter what may be his power of protest, or his means of expression, the poet finds himself ultimately where I am. Alone, silent, with the obligation of being very careful not to say what he does not mean, not to let himself be persuaded to say merely what another wants him to say, not to say what his own past work has led others to expect him to say.
The poet has to be free from everyone else, and first of all from himself, because it is through this “self” that he is captured by others. Freedom is found under the dark tree that springs up in the center of the night and of silence, the paradise tree, the axis mundi, which is also the Cross.
– Thomas Merton, May 1965
Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may at any moment become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself, “What else is the world interested in?” What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships. God is Love. Love casts out fear. Even the most ardent revolutionist, seeking to change the world, to overturn the tables of the money changers, is trying to make a world where it is easier for people to love, to stand in that relationship with each other of love. We want with all our hearts to love, to be loved. And not just in the family but to look upon all as our mothers, sisters, brothers, children. It is when we love the most intensely and most humanly, that we can recognize how tepid is our love for others. The keenness and intensity of love brings with it suffering, of course, but joy too because it is a foretaste of heaven. – Dorothy Day
Carlo Carretto – The thought that the affairs of the world, like those of the stars, are in God’s hands – and therefore in good hands – apart from being actually true – is something that should give great satisfaction to anyone who looks to the future with hope. It should be a source of faith, joyful hope, and, above all, of deep peace. What have I to fear if everything is guided and sustained by God? Why get so worried, as if the world were in the hands of me and my fellow human beings?
And yet it is so difficult to have genuine faith in God’s actions in the world. To refuse to believe it is one of the gravest temptations to which we are subjected on this earth.
I hold my face between my hands
no I am not crying
I hold my face between my hands
to keep my loneliness warm
two hands protecting
two hands nourishing
two hands to prevent
my soul from leaving me
The universe swings again into orbit around us.
Am I looking for you or you for me?
The question is wrong.
As long as I keep using two pronouns,
I am this in-between, two-headed thing.
Some of the water in my stream flows quickly by.
Some stays frozen in an ice ledge along the bank.
Sun says to stone, Let me shine inside you
and change your center to ruby.
As the sun of infinite love
comes into your love,
you are given more humble work,
something common like streetsweeping;
then you are given mastery.
The sun says to the unripe grape,
There is a kitchen inside you
where you can make vinegar,
or if I help, sweet juice.
The king says to the falcon, I cover your eyes
with a hood, so that you will break
with your kind and see only my face.
The falcon replies, Yes.
The rose says to the garden,
I display these robes,
so that you will let the other flowers go
and be a one-rose garden.
Imagine a man selling his donkey
to be with Jesus.
Now imagine him selling Jesus
to get a ride on a donkey.
This does happen.
Jesus can transform a drunk into gold.
If the drunk is already golden,
he can be changed to pure diamond.
If already that, he can become the circling
planets, Jupiter, Venus, the moon.
Never think that you are worthless.
God has paid an enormous amount for you,
and the gifts keep arriving.
Dates from a withered branch,
the sweet light that came to Jesus in the cradle.
My face now makes the world’s bathhouse hot.
Don’t look at the wet wall paintings.
There is something in us
that has nothing to do with night and day,
grapes that never saw a vineyard.
WE ARE ALL RETURNING.
says the Qur’an. Enjoy Shams,
or if you cannot do that, at least
consider what honest people tell you.
A lover has four streams inside,
of water, wine, honey, and milk.
Find those in yourself, and pay no attention
what so-and-so says about such-and such.
The rose does not care if someone calls it a thorn,
or a jasmine. Ordinary eyes categorize
human beings, that one is Zoroastrian.
This one is Muslim.
Walk instead with the other vision given you,
your first eyes. Don’t squint,
and don’t stare blankly like a vulture.
Those who love fire fall in the fire.
A fly slips from the edge into the whey.
If you are in love with the infinite,
why grieve over earth washing away in the rain?
Bow to the essence in a human being.
A desert drinks war-blood,
but if it knew this secret,
springs would rise, rose gardens.
Don’t be content with judging people good and bad.
Grow out of that. The great blessing is
that Shams has poured a strength into the ground
that lets us wait and trust the waiting.
Today, may I walk in right paths, in God’s light. May peace prosper the steps of my family and friends, in city streets and buildings, and among all nations.
Today, may people stream from east and west to converge in God’s neighborhood. May nations labor to dismantle barricades. May our city be a just, peaceable center, united and vibrant. May my friends and relations strive for the good of each other, and may I remember I am neither higher nor lower than a servant.
Today, may east and west meet in my right and left hands, complementing, comprehending one another.
In my body, may north and south correspond, lifting my mind above worry, grounding my feet on the earth.
Today may I know what I am: created, not self-made, instructed to walk and work in God’s ways.
May I hammer old knives into new spoons, old enmities into love.
May I respect the least functional part of myself as surely as Jesus cherishes a paralytic slave and saves him with a word.
May the shriveled and disused part of my heart be bathed in God’s mercy today, that I might see sunlight for what it is: the gaze that beholds and heals us all.
In a banquet hall spacious enough for a whole world of nations, may I rest among neighbors and strangers, friends and relations.
May we feast among prophets on food grown in plowed mountain soil, reaped with weapons repurposed as tools.
The presence rolling through again
clears the shelves and shuts down the shops.
Friend of the soul, enemy of the soul,
why do you want mine?
Bring tribute from the village.
But the village is gone in your flood.
That cleared site is what I want.
Live in the opening where there is no door
to hide behind. Be pure absence.
In that state everything is essential.
The rest of this must be said in silence
because of the enormous difference between light
and words that try to say light.
The best way to pray is: stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not. – Thomas Merton