Blog to Self

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thomas Merton, Diane Rehm...and Auden. again

I caught part of the 2nd half of the Diane Rehm show today and it makes me want to read some Thomas Merton -- a name I have heard many times; but I never read his books.

The segment is about a new book (and film) about Merton. Here's the link if you want to listen to it:
Morgan Atkinson: "Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton" (DeChant Hughes)
I hadn't heard of Diane Rehm while living in Albany (though I noticed that WAMC now airs it on their HD2 (digital radio) broadcast. --Gotta get me one of those. Been hearing about it on my new local public radio station, KMUW.)

I do not consider myself a Christian, but I have serious respect for anyone who finds spirituality in religion of any kind (that's an vague turn of phrase but I don't know how else to say it briefly). I was raised as a Christian, and you could say that I try to live according to what I understand to be Christian values and principles. But I have been more inspired in my search for spirituality (meaning or purpose of life, higher truth) by Buddhism, though even in that sphere I fall short of actually calling myself a Buddhist. Neither am I an atheist. I like to call myself an agnostic (the Buddha was an agnostic in regard to the Hindu God(s) of his time), but I if pressed I have been known to admit to a belief in a well, let's call it a higher power. 'God' has too much baggage for me I guess (too much baggage to carry?) But I digress.

I think I had some idea that Merton was interested in Buddhism, but I didn't know that he was --well, a contemporary of W.H. Auden's in that he was also part of an intellectual trend towards Catholicism in the 1930s. (With, I believe, a disillusionment with Communism.) Auden is, I daresay, one of my intellectual heroes. I'm not that interested in his poetry as such. I just like his mind -- the Dyer's Hand esp.* -- but I digress) So this Merton character is pretty fascinating. Apparently, before his embrace of a monastic life, he was kind of a hedonist and ladies' man.

*[1st result of a Google search for "dyer's hand auden"]


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