Self isolation – without the worry

One of my favourite talks given by Thomas Merton to the novices is called ‘A life free from care’ which you can find in Essential Writings selected by Christine M. Bochen (p. 67). Merton is writing about life in the monastery but I think we can make use of it at the moment too. He says that ideally in the monastery you put away all care. In this current crisis we may actually be in the equivalent of a monastic cell because we are in isolation, but we may be very much full of care: care for our health, care for our loved ones, care about the world, worrying about shopping – where can I find bananas – what about bread, what shall I do, and why can’t I make good use of this time …

Merton says that we are “devoured by care … and then the thoughts fears, reflections, regrets and anxieties”. Merton quotes the following suggesting that this is what we are supposed to do: “Since God offers to take upon Himself the care of our affairs, let us once for all abandon them to His infinite wisdom”, in other words God is taking care of everything. Merton says that if we can let go of all our cares that cloud our minds and vision, then he knows from experience that what this does,

‘is that in fact it is sometimes possible to see that things become transparent. They are no longer opaque and they no longer hide God…life is as simple as this. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story, it is true. And this is something we are not able to see. But if we abandon ourselves to Him and forget ourselves we see it sometimes and we see it maybe frequently: that God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything – in people and in things and in nature and in events and so forth. So that it becomes very obvious that He is everywhere, he is in everything, and we cannot be without Him. You cannot be without God. It’s impossible, it’s just simply impossible.’