Reading Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton in his writing has the knack of making you feel as if the words are addressed just to you. It’s a wonderful skill and those who were lucky enough to meet him whilst he was alive say that he offered you undivided attention. In other words he was not one of those people looking past you or over your shoulder checking to see if someone more interesting had come into the room. What Merton offers still in his writing is connection – ‘only connect’ as E. M. Forster said – Merton could do that. He was interested in people and interested in the inner world and it shows in his writing. Listening to Josh Cohen today talking about the private self at Bath Literature Festival I found myself thinking about Merton and how much he did in fact reveal of his private self. It is thought that the Journal entries were written with the idea of future publication in mind and yet they seem so private and you read them thinking that here is the real Merton. However his great skill is that in reading of his struggles and insights one is of course learning more about oneself. For above all his writing offers the reader a chance to learn not only about some one else’s spiritual life but to reflect and question one’s own