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The way to find the real ‘world’ is not merely to measure and observe what is outside us, but to discover our own inner ground. For that is where the world is, first of all: in my deepest self. But there I find the world to be quite different from the “obligatory answers.” This ‘ground,’ this “world” where I am mysteriously present at once to my own self and to the freedoms of all other men, is not a visible, objective and determined structure with fixed laws and demands. It is a living and self-creating mystery of which I am myself a part, to which I am myself my own unique door. When I find the world in my own ground, it is impossible for me to be alienated by it. It is precisely the obligatory answers which insist on showing the world as totally other than me and my neighbors, which alienate me from myself and from my neighbors. Hence I see no reason for our compulsion to manufacture ever newer and shinier sets of obligatory answers.”

Thomas Merton. Contemplation in A World of Action (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1973: 170.

The true solutions are not those which we force upon life in accordance with our theories, but those which life itself provides for those who dispose themselves to receive the truth. Consequently our task is to dissociate ourselves from all who have theories which promise clear-cut and infallible solutions, and to mistrust all such theories, not in a spirit of negativism and defeat, but rather trusting life itself, and nature, and if you will permit me, God above all.

Thomas Merton. Raids on the Unspeakable (New York: New Directions Press, 1964): 61.

Emphasis mine.

A row of apple trees lines
the winding road.
And false-brown leaves
whirl dervishly
in the roweling wind—
a wind that’s blowing through
low-lying branches.

Small apples, dropping like nuts,
pelt the earth like a joke from the past.
So, technically, it’s Springtime,
but winter makes great news.

Silhouettes of a man and a woman
move inside a Model A.
Despite the cold, they have the
windows down.  The man
greets the morning
like a prophet bearing great joy.
Only this time it’s personal.
He sports a welcoming smile, nothing else—
at least, nothing I choose to speak of.

The blond beside him wears
last year’s sunscreen, found in the car,
and warm yellow mittens.

first published in Rearview Quarterly