The third volume of Thomas Merton's journals chronicles Merton's attempts to reconcile his desire for solitude and contemplation with the demands of his new-found celebrity status within the strictures of conventional monastic life.
A Cistercian monk and author of the bestselling The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton records in his plain journal voice the struggles of a soul wrestling with both his vocation and his location, the Abbey of Our Lady of Gesthsemani near Bardstown,Ky. The journal pages are filled with spiritual ruminations, catalogues of Merton's correspondences and his reaction to them, lists of encounters with his fellows constrained by the discipline of the Abbey, his hopes for relocation to a mountaintop hermitage and all the day-to-day froth thst sits atop the deep currents of Merton's spiritual life. Part commonplace book, part spiritual journal, part diarist's discipline, the journal is both the sediment of his spiritual development and the tool he used to watch himself watching himself. Few readers who encounter this remarkable book will come away unchanged.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 09, 1997
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Excerpt from A Search for Solitude by Thomas Merton
July 25, 1952
I am trying to get myself adjusted to the fact that, twenty four hours ago, I had just left Columbus, Ohio, in an American Airlines plane, although forty eight hours ago, I was here at Gethsemani, working quietly enough, just as I am doing now. Once again -- the problem of always arriving where I already am -- the problem that confronts me in my dreams -- beats me here. (I am slowly getting rid of the violence of that one day's journey.)
How did I happen to get away from Gethsemani, gather myself together in the middle of Ohio, then take a running jump at the place and land back here in the evening after every one else had gone to bed? This is extraordinary behaviour for a Trappist.
Was it last week Reverend Father told me I was to drive up and meet him in Columbus to see some property near Newark, Ohio, that was being offered us for a foundation?
I said Mass yesterday morning at 2:15 in the back sacristy. Bro. Clement and Bro. Wendeline served me. We drove off together about sunrise. They are bringing back some hay from Ohio, where there has been plenty of rain. Everything is burnt up in Kentucky this year -- corn, hay, beans, everything except the tree seedlings we planted in the forest this Spring.
About a half hour on the other side of Louisville, I suddenly realized this was a marvelous journey. We were going along the Ohio River and I saw that it was wide and serene and blue and I saw the wooded hills sweeping down to the broad water, and soon we came to a great curve in the river and passed a river boat coming down with great paddles kicking up the water at her stem. It had already been a happy journey from the beginning (I said the votive Mass for Travellers), but now it became a brilliant one. We crossed the bridge at Cincinnati where the state trooper tried to arrest me for taking a snapshot in 1941, when I first came to Gethsemani on retreat. We sailed up the side of a big hill, a couple of hundred feet above the river, with the city unrolling behind us. There are corners where you come upon churches and monasteries springing up on the hilltops, and over your shoulder you see the weird domed towers of Covington, and you are no longer sure whether you are on the Ohio River or the Danube. Finally, somewhere on the way out of Norwood, we stopped at an intensely dull little soda fountain to get a sandwich and it all seemed inexpressibly beautiful. The man who ran the soda fountain was called Shorty and someone reproved him harshly for his high prices, but we were to discover that his prices were much less high than elsewhere, for now everywhere prices are high.
Out in the plains of Ohio, with red clover in the fields and corn growing high, we raced along the empty highway under the blue sky full of clouds, and I sang the praises of flat country, which I love, and Brother Clement talked of the off-spring of bulls.
It seemed, at the moment, that I must be going to make a foundation in Ohio. Why else would Reverend Father get me to go all the way up there unless he intended me to be Superior of the foundation? Afterwards this turned out to be by no means certain.
At Washington court house, the county fair was just about to open and I realized that I loved the small towns of Ohio. We skirted around the outsides of Columbus, but I saw the city in the distance and was filled with the mysterious awe that still comes over me when I think of the nineteen twenties. That tower, and the other less tall buildings, all haunt the memory of those innocent days when Pop was making money for Grosset & Dunlap and Father played the piano in the movie [house] in France and one of the books that made money for Grosset and Dunlap was a reprint of Sinclair Lewis' Babbit.
The awe grew on me when I realized that, in heading for Newark, we were also headed for Zanesville, where Pop came from and my mother was born.