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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Merton and the influence of books

In 1963, a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner sent a questionnaire to Thomas Merton. Here were the questions and Merton's responses as found in, "Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing," edited by Robert Inchausti.

1. Name the last three books you have read.

The Platform Scripture of Hui Neng, translated by Wing Tsit Chan
The Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury
A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley

2. Name the books you are reading now.

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture by John Huizinga
Ratio Verae Theologiae (The Real Meaning of Theology) by Erasmus
The Historian and Character by David Knowles

3. Books you intend to read.

Apology to the Iroquois by Edmund Wilson
The Silent Rebellion: Anglican Religious Communities, 1845-1900 by A.M. Allchin
Cur Deus Homo by St. Anselm of Canterbury

4. Books that have influenced you.

Poetic Works of William Blake
Plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles
Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
Sermons of Meister Eckhart
De Doctrina Christiana, Confessions, and Sermons on Psalms of St. Augustine
Rule of St. Benedict
The Bhagavad-Gita
The Imitation of Christ, etc.

5. Why have these books been an influence on you?

These books and others like them have helped me to discover the real meaning of my life, and have made it possible for me to get out of the confusion and meaninglessness of an existence completely immersed in the needs and passivities fostered by a culture in which sales are everything.

6. Name a book everyone should read.

Besides the Bible (taken for granted and not included above) and such classics as The Imitation of Christ, I would select a contemporary book which I consider to be of vital importance and which I think everyone should read at this time: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

7. Why this book?

This is the most forceful statement about a crisis that is of immediate importance to every American, and indirectly affects the whole world today. It is something that people have to know about. The Negro has been trying to make himself heard: in this book he succeeds.
Food for thought, eh? How about you? How would you answer those seven questions?

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