Thoughts in solitude could be more a euphemism for the last two months of my life and less a review of the book by Thomas Merton. I began reading this book with the hope of reconnecting to a faith that my grandparents so strongly felt but with which I had lost. By the time I finished the book I had found more faith than I have ever known. But the journey was not at all what I expected.
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who resided at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky. Merton was not a native Kentuckian but he made this land his home for decades. He wrote many books, sharing his thoughts not just on faith and religion but also on a wide range of topics. His extensive contemplations gained favor across many faith based communities.
In Thoughts in Solitude Merton outlines the importance of solitude to our soul. Originally published in 1958, the relevance of this book continues to grow. Our American society keeps moving forward at a faster pace, leaving behind everything that can’t be consumed in a sound bite. We barely give ourselves enough time to rest let alone to contemplate. Merton theorizes that this behavior is a path towards violence:
“When society is made up of men who know no interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and abusive authority. But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, the society in which they live becomes putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate. No amount of technological progress will cure the hatred that eats away the vitals of materialistic society like a spiritual cancer. The only cure is, and must always be, spiritual. There is not much use talking to men about God and love if they are not able to listen. The ears with which one hears the message of the Gospel are hidden in man’s heart, and these ears do not hear anything unless they are favored with a certain interior solitude and silence.”
Is is any wonder that our country is filled with violence when we as a society are so disconnected from our souls?
Which brings me back to my soul. I believe there is a reason I was reading this book at the time my uncle died unexpectedly last month. Like my grandfather, Uncle Tony was a man of faith and Christian principles. As a child I took for granted the love and steadfastness of these two men in my life. They were always there, a smile on their face, true to their families. As an adult I realize just how rare these qualities actually are.
At Uncle Tony’s visitation I sat watching my Aunt Donna hug and talk tenderly to every single person who came through the line to pay respect to her husband. A steady stream of people for over three hours was given the gift of a small story or remembrance from my aunt regarding her husband’s love for them. The generosity and faith of Aunt Donna and Uncle Tony was evident with each interaction that day. These are the characteristics that I have respected and wanted to emmulate. The people I have loved the most have all been people of faith. It is time for me to set my foot back on the path they have laid before me. These are my thoughts in solitude.