Reading Thomas Merton And ServiceSpace

Posted by Nancy Chu on Apr 3, 2021
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I remember the first time I read this passage by Thomas Merton. I was a student in my early 20s, and it struck me deeply. I was so moved by his powerful vision of the sacredness of humanity. Since then, whenever I realize that I have lost that sense of trust and wonder, I revisit it:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud...I have the immense joy of being [hu]man, a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun...Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.

It revives in me a feeling of peace and wholeness that I rarely experience in the world. What Merton saw that day is what I see being lived out in ServiceSpace every day: a sense of the sacred glimmering everywhere, the recognition of the absolute and mysterious beauty of life, and selflessness as a principle of the divine love that makes all things equal.

Posted by Nancy Chu | | permalink


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