Advice to a Young Prophet – Thomas Merton

Keep away, son, these lakes are salt. These flowers  
Eat insects. Here private lunatics  
Yell and skip in a very dry country.

Or where some haywire monument  
Some badfaced daddy of fear  
Commands an unintelligent rite.

To dance on the unlucky mountain,  
To dance they go, and shake the sin  
Out of their feet and hands,

Frenzied until the sudden night  
Falls very quiet, and magic sin  
Creeps, secret, back again.

Badlands echo with omens of ruin:
Seven are very satisfied, regaining possession:  
(Bring a little mescaline, you’ll get along!)

There’s something in your bones,
There’s someone dirty in your critical skin,
There’s a tradition in your cruel misdirected finger  
Which you must obey, and scribble in the hot sand:

“Let everybody come and attend  
Where lights and airs are fixed
To teach and entertain. O watch the sandy people  
Hopping in the naked bull’s-eye,

Shake the wildness out of their limbs,
Try to make peace like John in skins
Elijah in the timid air  
or Anthony in tombs:

Pluck the imaginary trigger, brothers.  
Shoot the devil: he’ll be back again!”

America needs these fatal friends
Of God and country, to grovel in mystical ashes,  
Pretty big prophets whose words don’t burn,  
Fighting the strenuous imago all day long.

Only these lunatics, (O happy chance)
Only these are sent. Only this anaemic thunder  
Grumbles on the salt flats, in rainless night:

O go home, brother, go home!  
The devil’s back again,
And magic Hell is swallowing flies.

There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist…most easily succumbs: activism and over-work. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.
The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work… It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her)…work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

Thomas Merton

“Rain and the Rhinoceros” – Thomas Merton

What a thing it is
to sit absolutely alone
in the forest at night
cherished by this wonderful
unintelligible
perfectly innocent speech
the most comforting speech in the world
the talk that the rain makes by itself all over the ridges
and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it
nobody is going to stop it.
It will talk as long as it wants, this rain.
As long as it talks
I am going to listen.