Woods, Shore, Desert: A Notebook, May 1968

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Museum of New Mexico Press, 1982 - Monks - 58 pages
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"This, the last journal-writing Thomas Merton ever approved for publication, details his departure from the Trappist Abbey at Gethsemani in 1968, and his subsequent journey through the American West. As The Seven Storey Mountain detailed the thoughts and fears of an aspirant to the monastic life, the never-before-published Woods, Shore, Desert is almost a canticle of a mature Religious, remarkable in its frankness and self-questioning. Recalling sources as diverse as Hegel, Unamuno, and the Astavakra Gita, Merton magically weaves his impressions of the rare and the mundane. And throughout the book, his thoughts are preoccupied by the lovely and vibrant land about him... I dream every night of the West"--Back cover.

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About the author (1982)

Born in France, Thomas Merton was the son of an American artist and poet and her New Zealander husband, a painter. Merton lost both parents before he had finished high school, and his younger brother was killed in World War II. Something of the ephemeral character of human endeavor marked all his works, deepening the pathos of his writings and drawing him close to Eastern, especially Buddhist, forms of monasticism. After an initial education in the United States, France, and England, he completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University. His parents, nominally friends, had given him little religious guidance, and in 1938, he converted to Roman Catholicism. The following year he received an M.A. from Columbia University and in 1941, he entered Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, where he remained until a short time before his death. His working life was spent as a Trappist monk. At Gethsemani, he wrote his famous autobiography, "The Seven Storey Mountain" (1948); there he labored and prayed through the days and years of a constant regimen that began with daily prayer at 2:00 a.m. As his contemplative life developed, he still maintained contact with the outside world, his many books and articles increasing steadily as the years went by. Reading them, it is hard to think of him as only a "guilty bystander," to use the title of one of his many collections of essays. He was vehement in his opposition to the Vietnam War, to the nuclear arms race, to racial oppression. Having received permission to leave his monastery, he went on a journey to confer with mystics of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He was accidentally electrocuted in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 10, 1968.

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