My dear Ruthi,
I gotta squeeze in an extra letter here (despite how “bursting” my last one was) because the synchronicity is just too fun.
This morning’s commitments got cancelled left, right and centre, so I sat down to finish the last page of Thomas Merton’s, The Seven Story Mountain. Just one page left. I had resurrected it yesterday for a couple of chapters, knowing I was almost done, but stopped short with one page remaining. One page! Have you ever?!
It’s my mother in-law’s new copy. I snatched it up from under her nose when we cottaged together in early July. I’d blown through a few books already by the lakeside in a couple of days and spent the rest of the two weeks slugging my way through this one. Oddly bugged and compelled at the same time. I was a couple chapters in when the other book I was reading at the time (for the second time), The Artist’s Way mentions The Seven Story Mountain. You know I love when that shit happens.
Anyways. This is the last page. And I’m just gonna set it here for you, and us, and all that we are doing together and separately – this searching for Joy, your manifestation of direction and my manifestation of healing and gratitude.
(and let me just say, Merton hadn’t notably mentioned joy up to this point…)
“Now my sorrow is over, and my joy is about to begin: the joy that rejoices in the deepest sorrows. For I am beginning to understand. You have taught me, and have consoled me, and I have begun again to hope and learn.
I hear You saying to me:
“I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude. I will lead you by the way that you cannot possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way.
Therefore all things around you will be armed against you, to deny you, to hurt you, to give you pain, and therefore reduce you to solitude.
Because of their enmity, you will soon be left alone. They will cast you out and forsake you and reject you and you will be alone.
Everything that touches you shall burn you, and you will draw your hand away in pain, until you have withdrawn yourself from all things. Then you will be all alone.
Everything that can be desired will sear you, and brand you with a cautery, and you will fly from it in pain, to be alone. Every created joy will only come to you as pain, and you will die to all joy and be left alone. All the good things that other people love and desire and seek will come to you, but only as murderers to cut you off from the world and its occupations.
You will be praised, and it will be like burning at the stake. You will be loved, and it will murder your heart and drive you into the desert.
You will have gifts, and they will break you with their burden. You will have pleasures of prayer, and they will sicken you and you will fly from them.
And when you have been praised a little and loved a little I will take away your gifts and all your love and all your praise and you will be utterly forgotten and abandoned and you will be nothing, a dead thing, a rejection. And in that day you shall begin to possess the solitude you have so long desired. And your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men you will never see on earth.
Do not ask when it will be or where it will be or how it will be: On a mountain or in a prison, in the desert or in a concentration camp or in a hospital or at Gethsemani. It does not matter. So do not ask me, because I am not going to tell you. You will not know until you are in it.
But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpis Christi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the doormen who labor in Gethsemani:
That you may become the brother of God and learn to know Christ of the burnt men.”
Sit finis libri, non finis quaerendi”
[translated: it’s the end of the book, not the end of the seeking]
So Ruthi, I always wonder…
to what end have you (or I) been created for?
What is your centre?
Around what do you orbit?
What is it that you put into the world?
And protect in children?
Protect in men?
Protect in women?
Protect in humankind?
With much love,