Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thomas Merton: Eastern Musings

The Lion
From alien heavens
Where there are no fabled beasts
No friendly histories
And passion has no heraldry.

I have nothing left to translate
Into the figures of night
Or the pale geometry
Of the fire-birds.
If I once had a wagon of lights to ride in
The axle is broken
The horses are shot.

-- Thomas Merton --

The iconoclasitic Benedictine Monk, Thomas Merton, was above all a poet, a poet who shook his worldview loose from old forms, as The Lion, above, amply demonstrates. The spare, stark images of the wagon of lights, the broken axle, and horses that have been shot suggest the growing influence that Zen and Taoism had on his worldview, an influence that can be seen in the following selections about Nothingness and the Void taken from his later work, "Cables to the Ace."

"For (Merton) solitude was his desert where he had to face death and Nothingness. As he explored the Asian religious traditions in the 1960s, he sought to integrate this Nothingness into his Christian theology. Buddhism and Taoism had long found in Nothingness or the Void a creative, even joyful, reality that was in harmony with Being. But Western thought only recently began to face the challenge of Non-being." -- Alan Altany --

(For more of Alan Altany's informative and delightful summary of Merton's poetry, see "Thomas Merton's Poetry: Emblems of a Sacred Season," on the website.)

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