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 15, 2008

The Journey begins

October 15, 1968
The Asian Journey of Thomas Merton began in earnest when he took off from the San Francisco airport on Tuesday October 15, 1968. He began the trip with the excitement of a child embarking on a long awaited and much anticipated trip.

"The moment of take-off was ecstatic... We left the ground - I with Christian Mantras and a great sense of destiny, of being at last on my true way after years of waiting and wondering and fooling around. May I not come back without having settled the great affair. And found also the great compassion, mahakaruna." AJTM p.4

A little historical context - 1968:
For me these photo's are indelibly inked in my childhood memory.
They need no captions...

To these we could add a host of other pictures that reflect a world in travail... The Derry Civil Rights Marches marking the beginning of the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Mai Lai Massacre in Vietnam, The pre-olympic Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico, Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia, Atmospheric Nuclear Bomb Tests... Phew!!! What a year. It's no wonder Merton was in search of the great compassion!

Merton's journey began during the flight of Apollo 7 and the Mexico City Summer Olympics. Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the newly elected Prime Minister in Canada and the U.S. was in the midst of a presidential election to replace LBJ. I remember these events distinctly as a sixth grader in small-town Houghton, Michigan.

Merton wrote to his friends before leaving on his trip to let them know his purpose and hopes in travelling to Asia. His plans were to attend a couple of meetings, visit some monastaries, and learn something of Buddhist monasticism "first-hand". He was clear that his trip was non-political and not linked to the war in Vietnam. He concluded his letter with this thought...

"Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts. Never was it more necessary for us to respond to that action." AJTM p. 296

Peace and Blessings... Rob

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


Anonymous said...

Beautiful Blog so far Dad!
I look forward to e-pilgrimaging with you and Merton through Asia over the next couple of months!

Stuart Macdonald said...

Excellent topic, excellent timing, in these days of economic and social turmoil brought about by our self centered desire to rule. This being accomplished at the expense of all our human and natural neighbours and our own internal spiritual environment.


ernie said...

Fascinating stuff, Rob... Looking forward to sharing rest of the journey with you..