My current read is a classic that I have drawn much inspiration from in my darkest of hours. It is No Man Is An Island by Thomas Merton
The title of this book is no doubt inspired by John Donne (1572-1631) as it appears in Devotions upon emergent occasions and seuerall steps in my sicknes – Meditation XVII, 1624
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
The meaning of which being human beings do not thrive when isolated from others.
About The Book
From Amazon.com – A recapitulation of his earlier work Seeds of Contemplation, this collection of sixteen essays plumbs aspects of human spirituality. Merton addresses those in search of enduring values, fulfillment, and salvation in prose that is, as always, inspiring and compassionate. “A stimulating series of spiritual reflections which will prove helpful for all struggling to…live the richest, fullest and noblest life” (Chicago Tribune).
My Takeaway From The Book
For me personally, this book draws me to a place where in Christ, He is everything. It has drawn me to a place of contemplation that when it is then that I had felt most alone, it was then that I was most not alone. Christ is the source and in Him, I find both cause and effect. And as I am plugged into Christ, I can therefore go forward and plug into others, because of Christ, and in pursuit of Christ both in them and through them.
This book leads me to a deeper place of trust and surrender, hope and belief.
Here Are 50 Quotes That Stop Me In My Tracks And Cause Me To Ponder:
1 “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
2 “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
3 “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”
4 “The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God. Such a one is alone with God in all places, and he alone truly enjoys the companionship of other men, because he loves them in God in Whom their presence is not tiresome, and because of Whom his own love for them can never know satiety.”
5 “By faith we know God without seeing Him. By hope we possess God without feeling His presence.”
6 “Without hope, our faith gives us only an acquaintance with God. Without love and hope, faith only knows Him as a stranger.”
7 “Nothing created is of any ultimate use without hope. To place your trust in visible things is to live in despair.”
8 “It seeks God knowing that it has already been found by Him. It travels to Heaven realizing obscurely that it has already arrived.”
9 “It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity.”
10 “We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from the effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.”
11 “Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm.”
12 “We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.”
13 “But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God’s love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.”
14 “The real reason why so few men believe in God is that they have ceased to believe that even a God can love them.”
15 “Every man becomes the image of the God he adores.
He whose worship is directed to a dead thing becomes dead.
He who loves corruption rots.
He who loves a shadow becomes, himself, a shadow.
He who loves things that must perish lives in dread of their perishing.”
16 “If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin. If we are content to give them a cold impersonal ‘charity’ that is merely a matter of obligation, we will not trouble to understand them or to sympathize with them at all. And in that case we will not really love them, because love implies an efficacious will not only to do good to others exteriorly but also to find some good in them to which we can respond.”
17 “Charity is not hungry. It is the juge convivium—the perpetual banquet where there is no satiety, a feast in which we are nourished by serving others rather than by feeding ourselves.”
18 “But to feed others with charity is to feed them with the Bread of Life, Who is Christ, and to teach them also to love with a love that knows no hunger.”
19 “Supernatural hope is the virtue that strips us of all things in order to give us possession of all things.”
20 “Who is willing to be satisfied with a job that expresses all his limitations? He will accept such work only as a ‘means of livelihood’ while he waits to discover his ‘true vocation’. The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies.”
21 “Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the “one thing necessary” may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.”
22 “For love does not seek a joy that follows from its effect: its joy is in the effect itself, which is the good of the beloved. ”
23 “The truth I must love in my brother is God Himself, living in him. I must seek the life of the Spirit of God breathing in him. And I can only discern and follow that mysterious life by the action of the same Holy Spirit living and acting in the depths of my own heart.”
24 “When all this has been said, the truth remains that our destiny is to love one another as Christ has loved us.”
25 “Hope is the gateway to contemplation, because contemplation is an experience of divine things and we cannot experience what we do not in some way possess. By hope we lay hands on the substance of what we believe and by hope we possess the substance of the promise of God’s love.”
26 “To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.”
27 “If the essence of freedom were merely the act of choice, then the mere fact of making choices would perfect our freedom.”
28 “Our choices are too often dictated by our false selves.”
29 “Free will is not given to us merely as a firework to be shot off into the air.”
30 “We ought to be alive enough to reality to see beauty all around us. Beauty is simply reality itself, perceived in a special way that gives it a resplendent value of its own. ”
31 “The first step in the interior life, nowadays, is not, as some might imagine, learning not to see and taste and hear and feel things. On the contrary, what we must do is begin by unlearning our wrong ways of seeing, tasting, feeling, and so forth, and acquire a few of the right ones.”
32 “For the subconscious mind is a storehouse of images and symbols, I might almost say of “experiences” which provides us with more than half the material of what we actually experience as “life.” Without our knowing it, we see reality through glasses colored by the subconscious memory of previous experiences.
33 It is, therefore, important that our subconscious mind should enable us to live as our true selves. Indeed, it often happens that a man’s true self is literally buried in the subconscious, and never has a chance to express itself except in symbolic protest against the tyranny of a malformed conscience that insists on remaining immature.”
34 “The wise have oil in their lamps. That is to say they are detached from themselves and from the cares of the world, and they are full of charity.”
35 “Most of the world is either asleep or dead. The religious people are, for the most part, asleep. The irreligious are dead. Their lamps are empty because they have burned themselves out in the wisdom of the flesh and in their own vanity.”
36 “The Spirit of God makes Himself known in our hearts by awakening in us the recognition of God’s love for us in His Son Jesus Christ, and by showing us how to keep His commandments.”
37 “None of these things can be done without prayer, and we must turn to prayer first of all, not only to discover God’s will but above all to gain the grace to carry it out with all the strength of our desire.”
38 “When we speak of God’s will, we are usually speaking only of some recognizable sign of His will. The signpost that points to a distant city is not the city itself, and sometimes the signs that point to a great place are in themselves insignificant and contemptible. But we must follow the direction of the signpost if we are to get to the end of our journey.”
39 “And since no man is an island, since we all depend on one another, I cannot work out God’s will in my own life unless I also consciously help other men to work out His will in theirs. His will, then, is our sanctification, our transformation in Christ, our deeper and fuller integration with other men. And this integration results not in the absorption and disappearance of our own personality, but in its affirmation and its perfection.”
40 “Yet it would be a false idea of perfection for an imperfect person suddenly to try to act with a perfection he does not possess. ”
41 “It takes more than an occasional act of faith to have such pure intentions. It takes a whole life of faith, a total consecration to hidden values. It takes sustained moral courage and heroic confidence in the help of divine grace. But above all it takes the humility and spiritual poverty to travel in darkness and uncertainty, where so often we have no light and see no sign at all.”
42 “Providence can no longer be for us a philosophical abstraction. It is no longer a supernatural agency to provide us with food and clothing at the right time. Providence itself becomes our food and our clothing. God’s mysterious decisions are themselves our life.”
43 “A right intention demands that we work with enough detachment to keep ourselves above the work to be done. But it does not altogether prevent us from gradually sinking into it over our ears. When this happens, we have to pull ourselves out, leave the work aside, and try to recover our balance and our right intention in an interval of prayer.
The man of simple intention, because he is essentially a contemplative, works always in an atmosphere of prayer. ”
44 “Only a man who works purely for God can at the same time do a very good job and leave the results of the job to God alone.”
45 “Since a simple intention does not need to rest in any particular end, it has already reached the end as soon as the work is begun. For the end of a simple intention is to work in God and with Him—to sink deep roots into the soil of His will and to grow there in whatever weather He may bring.”
46 “Our intention cannot be completely simple unless it is completely poor. It seeks and desires nothing but the supreme poverty of having nothing but God.”
47 “The secret of simple intention is that it is content to seek God and does not insist on finding Him right away, knowing that in seeking Him it has already found Him.”
48 “It is true that we can also have compassion for others merely because suffering is an evil in its own right. This compassion is also good. But it does not really become charity unless it sees Christ in the one suffering and has mercy on him with the mercy of Christ. Jesus had pity on the multitudes not only because they were sheep without a shepherd, but also simply because they had no bread.”
49 “Christianity is Christ living in us, and Christ has conquered everything.”
50 “To know the Cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ Who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ. For to know His love is not merely to know the story of His love, but to experience in our spirit that we are loved by Him, and that in His love the Father manifests His own love for us, through His Spirit poured forth into our hearts.”