Thomas Merton on “the richness and necessity of leisure time in all its freedoms and complexities”

Here is a brief excerpt from an article, “The Contemplative Life,” edited by Naomi Burton, Brother Patrick Hart, and James Laughlin in The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, published by New Directions (1975). If you feel that earning a living often seems like swimming laps in a blender or bungyjumping in a disposal, Merton’s insights may be helpful.

“The contemplative life must provide an area, a space of liberty, of silence, in which possibilities are allowed to surface and new choices –beyond routine choice — become manifest. It should create a new experience of time, not as stopgap stillness, but a ‘temps vierge’ — not a blank to be filled or an untouched space to be conquered and violated, but a space which can enjoy its own potentialities and hopes — and its own presence to itself. One’s own time. But not dominated by one’s ego and its demands. Hence open to others —  compassionate time, rooted in the sense of common illusion and in criticism of it.” (Page 117)

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has millions of copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.To learn more about him and his work, please click here.


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