Trying to think about life and how God makes it full

Merton and the Interconnectedness of humanity

I think this thought from Thomas Merton is counter-culturally radical in the context of our isolationism and fractured relationships with each other and our neighbourhoods. But it also rings true when you consider how connected the world is through globalisation. To understand what he’s trying to say (I think) requires a degree of humility and the ability to be self-critical – and then, for it to be really meaningful, means acting upon it.

Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and “one body,” will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from the failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time. It is seen, above all, in my integration in the mystery of Christ.

From: No Man Is An Island. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 16


February 19, 2007 - Posted by | contemplative, culture, merton, religion, wisdom


  1. A wonderful quote! I’m glad I stumbled across it…and your blog. Thanks.

    Comment by heartyheretic | February 19, 2007 | Reply

  2. I love Merton and find this quote rings with truth.

    But, it raises a question I still am unable to resolve. How can Christianity support selflessness when it is exactly the self which is being punished or rewarded in an afterlife.

    I love the devotion of Christianity but I don’t see how it can support the evolution of the human heart.

    Comment by Derrick | February 19, 2007 | Reply

  3. This idea of one organism, one body is crucial to embody as we attempt to address the situations we all face on a global scale today. To be aware that Christ consciousness is recognizing that there is only one God and we are one with God, our creator and all that is in the universe will allow us to experience all the good God has in mind for us. If we can love each other as God loves us and have peace in our hearts, our inner world will reflect into the outer and create happiness and goodwill for all.

    Comment by RevO | February 20, 2007 | Reply

  4. I embrace your articulate account of the God within. This is where I find all of my joy and work to share this bountiful fountain.

    I recently spent a week meditating at Gethsemani Merton’s old haunts here in Kentucky. It was beautiful and inspiring especially the monks sweetly singing the Psalms seven times a day. I know their hearts were filled with love but some of the words they sang promised death and eternal misery to any potential unbeliever.

    I think the Bible contains passages that reflect the dark and selfish side of mankind. If these passages are not addressed I don’t think the Church will be able to survive.

    Comment by Derrick | February 20, 2007 | Reply

  5. Thanks for visiting folks, and for leaving comments. Derrick, your thoughts around the afterlife and issues surrounding judgment are always difficult for us to engage with. Partly, because we don’t really know what’s going on with those who have died; and partly because its actually not up to us to decide – or judge – what the nature of God’s response to them will be.
    We can simply entrust ourselves into the hands of God, who showed us what his agenda is and what his nature is like in the person of Jesus. Jesus engaged the dark and selfish side of mankind in order to reconcile that very same mankind back to the heart of the God who created us in love, and whose heart is continually beating with passionate love for his creation.

    Comment by revtc | February 20, 2007 | Reply

  6. Sorry to be such a pain. I respect the path of Christianity and hope to see it continue to spread God’s love and the joy of devotion around the world.

    Comment by Derrick | February 22, 2007 | Reply

  7. very interesting. i’m adding in RSS Reader

    Comment by Melina | December 20, 2007 | Reply

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