Thomas Merton Square
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 … There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
This moment marked a pivotal moment in the monastic life of Thomas Merton as he turned from the world denying monk of The Seven Storey Mountain to the world embracing monk of the sixties as he began addressing many of the major issues of that time, some of which are as relevant today as when he penned them, if not more so.
The early sixties saw Merton’s most intense writings on war, the nuclear arms race, the cold war, racism, and other issues. When he was silenced from writing on issues of war and peace and he was banned from banned from publishing his recently completed book Peace in a Post-Christian Era he started to circulate mimeographed copies of these banned writings, including his famous Cold War Letters.
After Merton’s experience in Louisville that day he would write to James Baldwin saying: “I am therefore not completely human until I have found myself in my African and Asian and Indonesian brother because he has the part of humanity which I lack.”
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Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. All rights reserved.
Color photographs copyright of Paul M. Pearson. Not to be used without written permission.