Saturday, December 3, 2011
A Year With Thomas Merton - December 3
A Brush with the Angel of Death
How often in the last years I have thought of death. It has been present to me and I have "understood" it, and know that I must die. Yet last night, only for a moment, in passing, and so to speak without grimness or drama, I momentarily experienced the fact that I, this self, will soon simply not exist. A flash of "not-thereness," of being dead. Without fear or grief, without anything. Just not there. And this I supposed is one of the first tastes of the fruits of solitude. So the angel passed along, thinking aloud to himself, doing his business, and barely taking note of me. But taking note of me nevertheless. We recognized one another. And of course the other thing is that this "I" is not "I," and I am not this body, this "self," and I am not just my individual nature. But yet I might as well be, so firmly am I rooted in it and identified with it--with this that will cease utterly to exist, in its natural individuality.
In the hermitage--I see how quickly I can fall apart. I talk to myself, I dance around the hermitage, I sing. This is all very well but it is not serious, it is a manifestation of weakness, of dizziness. And again I feel within this individual self the nearness of disintegration. (Yet I also realize that this exterior self can fall apart and be reintegrated too. This is like losing dry skin that peels off while the new skin forms underneath.)
December 4, 1964, V.173-74