Brokenhearted Theology, Contemp Culture, Equipping, Meaning, Ministry, Peacemaking, Prayer, Quotes, Ramblings, Relational, Worship

Thomas Merton’s Ten Resolutions for a Contemplative Life

A few years ago, one of our housemates placed a list of ten new year’s resolutions attributed to Thomas Merton** on our fridge. Amidst postcards, magnet poetry, and grease splatterings from the oven (the kind that won’t come off no matter how hard you scrub), the list of resolutions has remained as a thoughtful conversation starter and, for me, the list is helpful in considering how to live a more contemplative and engaged life.

Here are the ten resolutions:

(1) Pay attention to people ::  Fewer things honor people as much, or make them peaceful more readily, or give them an experience of their worth as clearly as paying attention to them.

(2) Verbalize human experience and teach others to do this :: The more inarticulate we are, the more likely it is that we might seek violence as a way of expressing ourselves.

(3) Reject excessive activity, accomplishments or success :: There is something belligerent about frenetic action.

(4) Practice contemplation :: Contemplation is defined as life review, in silence, connecting our reflection with the ideals we have not achieved, making amends for things we regret, and thanking God for the good we were given, the losses we survived, the love we received beyond all measure.

(5) Embrace silence :: Silence is shattered not by speaking but by eagerness and anxiety to be heard by others. Silence invites others to speak. Genuine silence is creative and liberating.

(6) Resist consumerism :: A desperate need to possess is a form of violence.

(7) Lose, then let go :: We are acculturated to go from success to success. Losing gracefully, even in terms of the long run, is a remarkable virtue. Clutching at success, when letting go is necessary, destroys us.

(8) Read Scripture :: If you were to read Scripture reflectively for only five minutes a day, your life would be enriched. Scripture makes the norm, not whatever is presently fashionable, but what is truly enduring. It roots us and gives us peace amid the turbulence of passing crises we face.

(9) Maintain a sense of history :: We become frantic when we see life in the short run. In the longer view of human history or even our personal histories, patterns of meanings emerge. The good does prevail.

(10) Hold the conviction that people are basically good :: People must be reliable or else the Gospel would not have lasted; Christ would have been forgotten. Much of the violence done in the name of religion has been premised on the idea that people are evil.

What do you think?

Anything you would add or subtract from this list for those looking for a more contemplative rhythm in 2014?

** I’ve found the list attributed to Merton on a few other blogs, but can’t find a definitive source and have a hunch the attribution is questionable – so it’s possible the list originated somewhere other else. Let me know if you know something I don’t.


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