A 40 Year "Retrospective Journey"

“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
Thomas Merton

October 20, 2008

Calcutta 1968

Merton's first impression of Calcutta is shock. I can only imagine the experience of one who has spent much of the previous 27 years in a rural American monastery as they enter into the "big, beat up, hot, teeming, incredible city." Overwhelming!! In a letter written later to friends he writes...
"My first contact with India was Calcutta. which, no matter how pepared you can be is always a shock. the poverty and misery are overwhelming there..." TMLL p.38.

Later, when Merton returns to Calcutta in November, he has a different impression.
"Returning to Calcutta I have a completeley new impression: greater respect for this vast, crumby city. There is a kind of nobility in its sordidness: the sheer quantity of everything... Calcutta is overwhelming: the elemental city, with no room left for masks. Only the naked truth of overpopultaion, underemployment, hunger, disease, a mixture of great vitality and permanent exhaustion... Before, when I was here first I was too shocked: the trauma made me see the city as a big blur. Now I see detail and contrasts, the infinite variety of light and shade." AJTM p.131-132

Still later he writes... "It is a city I love." AJTM p.171

No comments: