Friday, March 13, 2009

Merton's Peace, Our Peace

Thomas Merton quoted Clement of Alexandria in his autobiography, Seven Story Mountain, published in 1947 stating that Christians are "an army shedding no blood." Merton was therefore on record that he was part of that army, consequently a peace advocate, a soldier for peace. Merton's story grew impressively over the years as he found that he was called as a monk to love the world, to love nature, to love all people. The monk does not flee the world, although that motivation can be mixed into the original thoughts at the entry of the monastery. The monk is a human finding a way to God and life through contemplation in solitude so that he or she can find truth about all creation in love and compassion. Merton's classic on peace, Peacemaking in a Post Christian World, was published in the 1990's. He died in 1968. He journeyed as the world grew deeper and deeper into the nuclear age. He became a light in the darkness.

That light still burns brightly as people seek the insights and wisdom from Thomas Merton's journey. I attended the Thomas Merton Society of Canada's annual conference on "Peace -- A Transforming Vision" last weekend. Jim Forest gave two keynote addresses beginning with the Clement of Alexandria quote. The weekend was full of workshops and presentations by people who carry on Merton's broad range of relationships and insightful communications. I attended a workshop on Merton and Rilke poetry, "at the Pivot of Silence," and "Thomas Merton at Gaza." The one a vivid exercise on the common contemplative expressions drawn from the wordless and the other a piercing presence into the anger, rage, frustration of Israel and Palestinian confrontation sum up the influence of Merton's life.

My journey has been guided in no small way by the wisdom of Thomas Merton.

The International Thomas Merton Society will conduct a Conference June 11-14 at Nazareth College in Rochester New York: BEARING WITNESS TO THE LIGHT, MERTON'S CHALLENGE TO A FRAGMENTED WORLD.

Maria Rilke's Poem

Breath, you invisible poem!

Pure, continuous change

with all that is, flow and counterflow

where rhythmically I come to be.

Each time a wave that occures just once

in a sea I discover I am.

You, innermost of oceans,

you, infinitude of space.

How many far places were once

within me. Some winds

are like my own child.

When I breathe them now, do they know me again?

Air, you silken surround,

completion and seed of my words.

A Poem by Merton:

"Love Winter When the Plant Says Nothing"

O little forests, meekly

Touch the snow with low branches!

O covered stones

Hide the house of growth!


Vegetal words,

Unlettered water,

Daily Zero.

Pray undistracted

Curled tree

carved in steel--

Buried zenith!

Fire, turn inward

To your weak fort,

To a burly infant spot,

A house of nothing.

O peace, bless this mad place:

Silence, love this growth.

O silence, golden zero

Unsetting sun

Love winter when the plant says nothing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The victims of nuclear weapons tests

On March 1, 1954 the United States military tested a thermonuclear weapon on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands which was the most powerful nuclear weapon ever exploded by the US and exceeded the five megaton blast expected by the scientists by ten megatons. US military personnel, Japanese fishermen, and Island residents still suffer the effects of that weapon. The environment will carry the radiation and scars indefinitely.
On March 1, 2009 eleven of us were arrested at Sub Base Bangor on the Hood Canal in Washington State to commemorate the 55Th anniversary of the Bikini Atoll blast and to express our concern about the victims and the environment. The Navy base at Bangor houses the most powerful nuclear weapon on earth, the Trident Submarine., nine of them and 1500 nuclear bombs.
The Pacific Life Community held its retreat during the weekend and concluded it with this citizens intervention on behalf of life for all people, every species on earth. We commit ourselves to nuclear abolition, abolition of war, life as life is intended.
Next year, 2010, the United States has the opportunity to participate in the United Nations Non Proliferation Treaty meeting. At the last meeting, the United States maintained a token presence which told the world the US did not support nuclear abolition. Next year, either the US will support the Treaty or other nations will proliferate nuclear weapons in response.
We, citizens of the United States, must tell the government (and the world) that we want nuclear abolition.