Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968) was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. On May 26, 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name "Father Louis".Merton wrote more than 50 books in a period of 27 years, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton's most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), which sent scores of World War II veterans, students, and even teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US, and was also featured in National Review's list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. He pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama, the Japanese writer D. T. Suzuki, the Thai Buddhist monk Buddhadasa, and the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and authored books on Zen Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
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The silence of the forest is my bride and the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love, and out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world.
Why do monks live in seclusion? That is asking why does a scientist work in a laboratory, or why does a sailor go on a ship or why does a duck swim in water. Why does a man go to his bedroom and get in bed when he wants to go to sleep? Why doesn't he lie down in the middle of the street? A monk seeks silence and solitude because there his mind and heart can relax and expand and attain to a new perspective: there too he can hear the Word of God. . . . An apt saying of the Muslim Sufis comes to mind here: "The hen does not lay eggs in the marketplace.
In the Koran, Allah asks, "The heaven and the earth and all in between, thinkest thou I made them in jest?" It's a good question. What do we think of the created universe, spanning an unthinkable void with an unthinkable profusion of forms? . . . If the giant water bug was not made in jest, was it then made in earnest?