Friday, September 25, 2009

New Beginnings

Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk, once said, "Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clich├ęs, it would be time to call in the undertaker... So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life."

After my last writing which prompted me to slow down and enjoy this quiet time, this quote of Merton's seems to pull me in a different direction ... perhaps it's ok to be dissatisfied with life. But, Diane Walker in her blog "Contemplative Photography" writes, "Life's not what it's not: it just is what it is. We can spend our time worrying about what it's not; we can even view everything through that lens of disappointment. Or we can accept that what's happening is what's happening; even begin to believe that what's happening is what's supposed to happen -- that all of what challenges us now is a way of preparing us and bringing us to what awaits us next."

These seem like contradictory thoughts ... both true and yet opposed. How do they reconcile? Both seem to agree that life's challenges, our disappointments and losses, are precursors to what comes next. They are our openings for renewal ... our new beginnings. Maybe it isn't as much how we feel about the present moment but whether or not we can stay completely open to it and what it brings. Perhaps that's what Merton means when he says "if he were to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life," it would be time to die. That satisfaction, to him, might be equated to being closed to what might come next. And, yet others of us might be able to accept the difficulties ... or the joys ... of the present moment and know that "this too shall pass" and there will always be new beginnings ... at least until all the new beginnings in this plane are exhausted and the ultimate new beginning begins.

I think this has just twisted my brain and it's time for another cup of tea.


  1. Seneca, a Roman philosopher and oft-quoted even today, wrote, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

    I think that's what you're writing about today, Joyce.

  2. I love this photograph! (and Merton, of course!)