camping, Merton, and Nouwen

I haven't written much of anything over the past month.  And that is okay.  Have moved through Lent in a rather bizarre manner and I'll spare you the details.  Three thoughts on this Wednesday, which has become customary.

1.  We had a great camping trip this past weekend at Chawacla State Park near Auburn, Alabama.  One of my resolutions for the year was to take the kids camping at least twice this year.  We have made two trips, to Pickens and Alabama.  I may (emphasize) see if Jessica will agree to let me take the two little ones to a Ft. McRae by boat for an overnight before it gets too hot.  It was a lot of fun to watch Gracie show Steve Hogan how to pitch a line after he got stuck in the trees twice.  If only I'd had a video camera. 

2.  I have recently worked through a book titled Beneath the Mask of Holiness.  In looking over the comments of other readers, there is certainly an appreciable attack on the "sensationalist" approach of the author.  What is perhaps most helpful about this book is not any new revelation of Merton's demons, but a clearly and well painted picture of his humanity.  As is the case with most of us, Merton is a remarkably complex individual.  Notwithstanding a gifted mind and a contemplative soul, he faced baffling challenges in the area of love and its ugly and inbred distant thirteenth cousin (lust), alcohol, and  bluntly - narcissism.  There is truth in observing that we are hard pressed to fully understand a solution without a thorough understanding of the problem.  This analysis of the M affair and Merton's troubled past does not detract the least from the powerful affect of his writing, which should never be consumed through rose colored glasses.  In reality, many of the spiritual giants, if known more fully, probably have stories in their closets that would cause some to call the essential validity of their testimonies into question.  Rather than appreciating the frequent placement of institutions and persons upon pedestals from which they can easily be attacked and knocked down (I'd urge, for self expedient reasons), we see here that Merton - in all his humanity - was still able to carry a message of hope and love to those he wrote to.  I also happen to believe he was quite often writing to himself, even outside the context of his private journals. 

I agree the author makes a bit much of the edited nature of SSM, and yet we really cannot be all that surprised by this.  We must also be mindful that there is (shocking, I know) a bit of marketing which goes on in all books such as this.  Don't throw the baby out with the relatively minor soiling of bathwater here. Merton's struggles illuminate the directives of his writing.  This book gives the Merton student a more fully developed lens from which to continue appreciating his many works.

3.  Jessica sent me a great piece from Henri Nouwen that I will leave you with:

We can only be faithful in our affirmation that God has not deserted us but calls us in the midst of all the unexplainable absurdities of life.

I have little doubt that Thomas Merton, with hearty laughter, would firmly agree. 



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