A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk's True Life

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HarperSanFrancisco, 1996 - Religion - 406 pages
By 1952, Thomas Merton's renown as the bestselling author of The Seven Storey Mountain was well established. During the years illuminated by this third volume of his private journals, Merton struggled to reconcile his celebrity with his desire for a life of hermetic silence and contemplation.
Already at the Abbey of Gethsemani for over a decade, Merton was beginning to grow impatient with the strictures and shortcomings of conventional monastic life. Here he chronicles the search for a more authentic experience of the divine and of community that led him to explore Zen, existentialism, and the exciting developments in Latin American Christianity and literature, which informed his own Catholic spirituality and his views of the great intellectual debates of his time.
Merton's private writing combines a poet's eye for the beauty of nature - in the woods and fields of the Abbey - as well as a fiction writer's instinct for the idiosyncracies of his brethren, the rhythms and tediums of regular observance, the strengths of the monastery and its weaknesses.
It is, however, Merton's restless, compelling, unvarnished reflections on the question of what it means to be a monk in his own time that gives this journal its most lasting value, paying homage to monasticism and instructing all who value the contemplative life.

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User Review  - stevenschroeder - LibraryThing

This third volume of Merton's journals, like the first two, is full of insight into his life and work. Readers will be grateful that, when it came to his journals, Merton's Trappist silence did not ... Read full review

A search for solitude: pursuing the monk's true life

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The third in this publisher's projected seven-volume publication of Merton's journals contains the monk's reflections on the conflicts between his contemplative life and his worldly life as an ... Read full review

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About the author (1996)

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.

Lawrence S. Cunningham is John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. His scholarly interests are in the area of systematic theology and culture, Christian spirituality, and the history of Christian spirituality. His most recent book is A Brief History of Saints. He has edited or written sixteen other books and is co-editor of the academic monograph series 'Studies in Theology and Spirituality'.

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