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Something to ponder: March 29, 2010 Thomas Merton Reflection

March 29, 2010
Thomas Merton wrote in New Seeds of Contemplation (p.4), “The life of contemplation implies two levels of awareness: first, awareness of the question, and second, awareness of the answer. Though these are two distinct and enormously different levels, yet they are in fact an awareness of the same thing. The question is, itself, the answer. And we ourselves are both.”
Also from New Seeds of Contemplation (p. 4) comes the Thought for the Day: “And all is summed up in one awareness – not a proposition, but an experience: ‘I AM.'”
When I read thoughts like these, I am moved, but also feel inadequate to say anything at all because they touch a place in me that is beyond words. It’s hard to grasp the beauty of the touching. Words are so concrete, so heady, so — well, left brain!  This quote can’t be understood or explained away with words. Sure enough, it can be logicked, but doing so removes its poetry. And thus, the touching. And that’s what’s so important. So vital to this saying. There has to be a way for me to communicate what happens inside me when I read  these quotes. I want to tell you what happens. I want you to know that I’m not the same as I was before I saw them, heard them, got them! I don’t know why I want you to know, but I do! I want you to care, as much as I do, that these words, these utterances of the deepest kind, change me and make me wholly able to be who I most long to be. Who I AM.
I need to tell you who I am. I want, but I also need to tell you. I heard this cry from my brother-in-law yesterday who was trying so hard to impress his brother, my husband, with his conservative politics. Louder and louder he shouted. He was so proud of his thoughts. And he knew every minute and with every word that his brother disdained his ideas, his thought processes, that which he had thought out all by himself with the help of Fox TV. “I know you don’t agree with me,” he kept saying. And it was true. But nonetheless, he kept trying to make himself heard. Finally, in utter exasperation, my husband threw out, “I’ve had enough!” and closed the door rather emphatically.
Neither communicated. Neither heard. Neither listened. Neither was heard. Both coming from different world views and talking in two different keys.
But what I heard from a place inside my body, was a cry for recognition. Perhaps I was projecting my own lifelong begging, “Please listen to me!” Or perhaps I could hear another’s voice because the plea was so familiar to me. I saw with my mind’s eye, a suffering of sorts, an emptiness, a longing for recognition from the most primal place. “Here I am! Please see me! Acknowledge me! Tell me I have value.”  I hear this a lot – a sound riding the crest of an egoistic diatribe, or a vituperative verbal denunciation. I saw Congressional folk during the healthcare debates criticizing their opponents in colorful and insulting terms. But I also heard somewhere in myself, “Please, listen to me!”  The words and the arguments, the sides and the meaning, didn’t matter. I saw beyond the words, beyond the propositions, to the one awareness:  I AM.  I am . . . concerned, worried, afraid . . . and I want you to hear me. And if you don’t, I know something bad will happen to me and mine — to all of us. “Please hear me!” “Please see me as having something valuable to say, as being of value, as being valuable, as being. I can’t see myself. Please see me.”
I am painfully aware of “the question.” Or I may not be aware of it consciously, but it has shaken me, and nudged me, and frightened me. People have preached to me that there is an “answer” that I should be aware of. But they tell me it is something or someone not myself – or at least that’s what I think they’re saying. And even if I know intellectually that the question and the answer are the same, I really don’t get it.  I  doubt the value of my own being, the beauty of my own soul, my raison d’etre. So all I do is question and fear and question and fear some more. Until . . . one day I hear the sound of a bell in the wind, or see my brother hurting. And Voila! I know. For one split second I know. I can’t tell you as Merton did that I just figured out that the question is, itself, the answer. I can’t even remember the question, or in fact that I had one. But I do know. And I know that I know. Please don’t ask me, “What? What do you know?” Because I can’t tell you. And even if I could you wouldn’t believe me. But that moment, that numinous instant, is a flash of quicksilver, not so much as a candle flicker, but I saw it and I got it! And I know. And I am forever after different. Yet the same. And so, here I am.
One Comment leave one →
  1. planejaner permalink
    March 30, 2010 11:16 am

    ” I want to tell you what happens. I want you to know that I’m not the same as I was before I saw them, heard them, got them! I don’t know why I want you to know, but I do! I want you to care, as much as I do, that these words, these utterances of the deepest kind, change me and make me wholly able to be who I most long to be. Who I AM. ”

    Nancy–i GET this! i understand what you mean, and i share this desire…when someone can see and understand what changes me, or affects me, they also can see a glimpse of the divine me, the one I was created to be…i tend to get manic and dervish-y about beautiful, powerful music…and will foist it on others, so that, in their listening of it, they can also see me…and know that i am changed by it…and who i am because of what i heard…
    usually what happens, though, is that it doesn’t affect them as it did me…and i am left, filled with a passion and fullness that cannot really be shared…by anyone other than…me.
    so, i guess i end up knowing myself better…and i can cry to myself, “see me, see me!” and…i do.
    thank you for sharing!

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