By The Sea – Follow The Voice

29 Aug

Thomas Merton was a man with a soaring mind and a deep spirit. Thought to be one of the premier spiritual masters of the 20th century, Merton lived first as a rich, spoiled kid wasting his inheritance and then, after his own awakening experience, as a vowed Trappist monk in a secluded hermitage. He was, by the accounts of his biographers, a man of extremes, but the consistent thread that ran though his life was his profound commitment to contemplation as a means of addressing social justice and human rights. It seems a paradox that contemplation might lead to social action, but the proof was in Merton’s powerful life.

He found his strength in a contemplative approach to life and faith. After intensive interviews with Merton, Michael Ford comments that contemplation for the monk was not a philosophy but a “response to a call, or, more precisely, the echo of a silent voice resonating in the inmost center of our spirit.” That’s the key. Merton didn’t create the contemplative encounter, he responded to something that was already and always present. He heard a voice and followed it.

Joseph Campbell, the well known philosopher and mythologist, used to say: Follow your bliss! That is, follow your heart’s urging, follow the deepest joy you experience, follow that which calls you from the deep center of yourself. Merton did just that; he followed the whisper that he heard in his quiet listening.

It’s dark outside right now and very quiet except for the sound of the Pacific Ocean embracing huge boulders on the beach about fifty yards away. The rhythmical rumbling of the surf repeats and repeats until it becomes the only sound definable in the black night. And in that crashing symphony, there comes a “silent voice resonating in the inmost center” of this moment. It calls and beckons. It invites and welcomes. It is both tender and terrifying. It is beyond reason and rational thought. No one creates it for it is creation itself. It speaks when we listen, and in the hearing of it, we are compelled to follow the voice.

Listen to the inmost center of your own spirit. Listen.

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