Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to receive them as gifts, we have to be open. In order to be open we have to renounce ourselves, in a sense we have to die to our image of ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed destiny. We have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know of ourselves.
Yesterday as I came down the path from the mountain I heard a strange humming behind me. A Tibetan came by quietly droning a monotonous sound, a prolonged “om”. It was something that harmonized with the mountain — an ancient syllable he had found long ago in the rocks — or perhaps it had been born with him.
All truly contemplatives souls have this in common:
not that they gather exclusively in the desert,
or that they shut themselves up in reclusion,
but that where He is, there they are.
And how do they find Him? By technique?
There is no technique for finding Him.
They find Him by His will. And His will,
bringing them grace within and arranging their lives exteriorly,
carries them infallibly to the precise place in which they can find Him.
Even there they do not know how they have got there,
or what they are really doing.
—Thomas Merton from Thoughts in Solitude. Thank you, The Beauty We Love.
When humility delivers a man
from attachment to his own words
and his own reputation,
he discovers that true joy is only possible
when we have completely forgotten ourselves,
and it is only when we pay no more attention to our life
and our own reputation and our own excellence
that we are at last completely free to serve God for His sake alone.
“It takes more courage than we imagine to be perfectly simple with other men. Our frankness is often spoiled by a hidden barbarity, born of fear.
False sincerity has much to say, because it is afraid. True candor can afford to be silent. It does not need to face an anticipated attack. Anything it may have to defend can be defended with perfect simplicity.”
—Thomas Merton. No Man is an Island (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955) pages 194-5
also in A Merton Reader, ed. by Thomas P. McDonnell, (New York: Image Books, 1989) page 123.
Thank you, louie, louie.
Zen enriches no one. There is no body to be found. The birds may come and circle for a while in the place where it is thought to be. But they soon go elsewhere. When they are gone, the “nothing”, the “no-body” that was there, suddenly appears. That is Zen. It was there all the time but the scavengers missed it, because it was not their kind of prey.