Wednesday, December 7, 2011
A Year With Thomas Merton - December 7
One Prays to Pray
In the hermitage, one must pray or go to seed. The pretense of prayer will not suffice. Just sitting will not suffice. It has to be real--yet what can one do? Solitude puts your back to the wall (or your face to it!) and this is good. One prays to pray. And the reality of death. John Donne's poems and Lancelot Andrewes.
Then it becomes very important to remember that the quality of one's night depends on the thoughts of the day, on the sanity of the day. I bring there the sins of the day into the light and darkness of truth to be adored without disguise--then I want to fly back to the disguises. Who ever said that the solitary life is one of pretense and deception? As if pretense were easy in solitude!!! It is easier in the community, for there one can have the support of a common illusion or a common agreement in forms that take the place of truth. One can pretend in the solitude of an afternoon walk, but the night destroys all pretences: one is reduced to nothing and compelled to begin laboriously the long return to truth.
Tonight it is cold again and, as I came up in the dark, a few small snowflakes were flying in the beam of the flashlight. The end of an oak log was still burning with small flames in the fireplace. Came up with candles, and sugar for coffee, and jar to urinate in so that I won't have to go out in the snow in the middle of the night. What greater comforts could a man want?
December 5, 1964, V.175-76