Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - June 11

The Bitter, Lucid Joys of Solitude

The bitter and lucid joys of solitude. The real desert is this: to face the real limitations of one’s own existence and knowledge and not try to manipulate them or disguise them. Not to embellish them with possibilities. Simply to set aside all possibilities other than those which are actually present and real, here and now. And then to choose or not, as one wishes, knowing that no choice is a solution to anything, but merely a step further into a slightly changed context of other, very few, very limited, very meaningless concrete possibilities. To realize that one’s whole life, everybody’s life, is really like that. In society the possibilities seem infinitely extended. One is in contact with other people, other liberties, other choices, and who knows what the others may suddenly all choose?

In society, in the middle of other people, one can always imagine one will break through into other liberties and other frames of reference. Other worlds. We have trained ourselves to think that we live at every moment amid unlimited hopes. There is nothing we cannot have if we try hard enough, or look in the right place for it.

But in solitude, when accurate limitations are seen and accepted, they then vanish, and new dimensions open up. The present is in fact, in itself, unlimited. The only way to grasp it in its unlimitedness is to remove the limitations we place on it by future expectations and hopes and plans, or surmises, or regrets about the past, or attempts to explain something we have experienced (or the revived, warmed-up experience) in order to be able to continue living with it.

June 19, 1966, VI.309-10

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