Sunday, February 5, 2012
A Year With Thomas Merton - February 5
We Are Not Shadows of God
I cannot deny that it was a great joy to say the office in private, Lauds and Prime, especially with the sun coming up slowly and shining on the sunny pastures and on the pine woods of the dark knobs, which I see through the novitiate window. Lovely blue and mauve shadows on the snow, and the indescribably delicate color of the sunlit patches of snow. All the life of color is in the snow and the sky. The green of the pines is dull and brownish. The dead leaves, still clinging tenaciously to the white oaks, are also dull brown. The cold sky is very blue, and the air is dry and frozen so that, for the first time in years, I see and breathe the winters of New York and not the mild or ambivalent winters of Kentucky.
The strength of the cold, the austerity and power of the landscape, redeems the snow colors and delicate shadows from anything of pastel shading. I can think of no art that has rendered such things adequately--the nineteenth-century realists were so realistic as to be totally unlike what they painted. There is such a thing as too close a resemblance. In a way, nothing resembles reality less than the average photograph. Nothing resembles substance less than its shadow. To convey the meaning of something substantial, you have to use a sign, which is itself substantial and exists in its own right.
Man is the image of God and not the shadow of God.
February 17, 1958, III. 171