We are taking a brief, two-day pause from our reflections on YELLAWE and re-inventing education. This reflection on education’s failures to teach values is based on a so-called value-free ideology that hangs around from a discredited physics that still imagines “objectivity.”  It is part of a tired modern consciousness that elevates rationality at the expense of intuition and that results in climate change emergencies and a dumbed-down political landscape. 

The Dalai Lama at Thomas Merton’s grave. Excerpt of a photo by Kentucky Standard republished in The Dalai Lama Descends on Gethsemani: In Memory of Thomas Merton (Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University)

Why interrupt this meditation?

Because this is a special day: It is the death day (many will say the day of martyrdom and I am among them) of Thomas Merton.  It is also the day he entered the monastery 28 years earlier.  Therefore, in many ways a holy day. 

Today and tomorrow we will offer just a few thoughts from Merton regarding ecology.  Another time we will give him more space and opportunities to rattle our souls.

Thomas Merton. Photo by Sibylle Akers / Merton Legacy Trust

In a move very telling about Merton’s spiritual instincts and his cultural alertness, he responded in his journal in late 1962 to ecological prophet Rachel Carson very soon after reading her now classic wake-up call about the environment, Silent Spring. He wrote:

I have been shocked at a notice of a new book, by Rachel Carson, on what is happening to birds as a result of the indiscriminate use of poisons (which do not manage to kill all the insects they intend to kill). Some will say: you worry about birds: why not worry about people?

One of 20 bald eagles found dead in Eastern Maryland between 2016-2019, some due to the extremely toxic and illegal chemical carbofuran. Photo: Maryland Natural Resources Police

I worry about both birds and people. We are in the world and part of it and we are destroying everything because we are destroying ourselves, spiritually, morally and in every way.
It is all part of the same sickness, and it all hangs together.

This is veritable Creation Spirituality. To worry both about non-two-legged creation (birds) and about the two-legged ones. He also notices that the cause of this destruction of creation around us is to be found in our self-destruction, “spiritually, morally and in every way.”

Rachel Carson. Photo from the Rachel Carson Archives

On January 12, 1963, Merton was moved to write a two-page letter to Rachel Carson. The immediate response to her book had been fiercely negative from many scientists, corporations, media moguls, and others. One commentator wrote:

Carson’s writing and scientific career seemed to be at an end. Targeted in a vicious and financially underwritten campaign to discredit her scientific integrity, Carson was vilified as a ‘hysterical female,’ a ‘pseudo-scientist,’ ‘probably a communist,’ a ‘bird and bunny lover,’ and a charlatan researcher.

“Denial is death” Melbourne Global climate strike, 9/20/2019. Photo by John Englart on Flickr

In his letter Merton thanks Carson for her awareness of the “interdependence” of all things; he tells her that from now on DDT will not be employed at the monastery; and he elaborates on the “sickness” that he felt lies behind ecological denial (and today, climate denial):  “I would almost dare to say that the sickness is perhaps a very real and very dreadful hatred of life.”

Adapted from: Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 118f.

Banner image: Liberation of the world’s smallest falcon after medical treatment, Montescaglioso (MT), Italy. Photo by Giovanni Calia on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Merton that a “sickness” lies behind the exploitation of the planet and that sickness is in fact a “very dreadful hatred of life”?  This would seem to echo Adrienne Rich’s teaching that patriarchy brings with it a “fatalistic self-hatred.”  How can we deconstruct such a world view?

Recommended Reading

In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.

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12 thoughts on “December 10: A Special Day.”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for creating The respectful space to consider Thomas’s life and teachings.
    I agree the global destructive force is a collective self hatred. I believe education and intensive parenting support to create secure and connected attachment relationships would help our society enormously. Together with education in schools from an early age on Non Violent Communication- where judgemental shaming and blaming is replaced with a language of compassion and connection. People need internalised good parents to successfully mature to be in compassionate relationship with themselves and the world.
    Beyond this I believe our sensationalist narrow minded media of the masses needs to addressed for it’s dominant negative influence. The “2% of the population” extreme views that hijack our amygdalas are given equal air time to the centrist views so we. Are getting very distorted views of our society.
    Blessings to you for your integrity and inspiration.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Maria,
      Thank you for writing and sharing your ideas about accessing our innate human goodness in our families and schools. The struggle for our souls is real. All around the families and schools are the enticements of the commercial age and dynamically communicated “distorted views of our society,” as you so clearly put it. How to counterbalance the effect of media which was designed to attract our most selfish nature?
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Maria,
      Thank you for sharing this powerful resource with us. It is a revealing account of how we slowly lost our souls through commerce and self indulgence. I grieve for what could have been.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar

    Rev. Matthew Fox: Thank You, Thank You, for the “Consciousness Awareness” that
    your amazing works provide. “Gratitude is the memory of the heart” -a lovely quote.

  3. Avatar

    If the Roman Catholic Church would recognize the existence of Mother Earth, and then develop a respectful and loving relationship with her, this, I believe, would help heal the world.

    The Roman Catholic Bishops conference of Italy published a prayer to Mother Earth in April 2019. The conference did this with a special focus on the Amazon synod which occurred in October 2019. This breakthrough is being equated with the Catholic church’s emerging acceptance of both, indigenous people’s and New Age spirituality.

    The National Catholic Register and EWTN, an American-based, global television network, are, together, promoting a two-Bishops lead vile campaign against Pope Francis and the direction that the Amazon synod is taking the church. In a National Catholic Reporter article titled “Amazon synod has set Pope Francis’ professional haters on edge,” its author, Michael Winters, wrote: Cardinal Raymond Burke and Kazakhstan Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider were leading a “campaign,” against the pope and the Amazon synod’s working document. Mr. Winters also wrote: In this internet age, an auxiliary bishop from Kazakhstan can make a splash, but the particular vehicle for Burke’s and Schneider’s vile insinuations is the National Catholic Register, an arm of EWTN.

    Traditionalist Catholic, Michael Matt, editor of the conservative Catholic publication, The Remnant Newspaper, is a prominent member of the Burke and Schneider lead vile campaign. In a video by Mr. Matt titled “POPE SACHS CHURCH: Vatican Embraces United Nations Goals” [referring to sustainability goals] there is a picture of John Lennon and Pope Francis together, with the words “Imagine THAT” displayed next to them, indicating that the Amazon synod (as Matt says in the video) helps the Church promote its global agenda to fulfill Lennon’s (in general) vision, as presented in the lyrics of the Beatles’ song Imagine. Matt also produced a podcast titled: Hippies in the Vatican. The leading Protestant opponents of the New Age are making the same – hippie New Age spiritual philosophy – connection as Matt is, to a prophesied “coming era,” that will be (“if conservative Christians cannot stop it”) ushered in by the pope and the United Nations.

    Fr. Mitchael Pacwa, a renowned expert on the New Age, condemned what he believed to be idolatry at the Amazon synod on his weekly program on EWTN. He talked about the indigenous people’s ‘Pachamama’ (Mother Earth) “idols” that were praised and blessed at the Synod on the Amazon. He also said: “The bishops conference of Italy published a prayer to Pachamama.” Concerning the thinking that influenced the publication of this Inca prayer to Mother Earth, he said: “This is New Age like thinking that goes back to the 1970s.” Wikipedia says: “From a historical perspective, the New Age phenomenon is rooted in the counterculture of the 1960s.” The Beatles’ promotion of Hinduism, according to Wikipedia, “kick-started the Human Potential Movement that subsequently became New Age.” The 1960s counterculture, as stated by Wikipedia, “used the terms New Age and Age of Aquarius to refer to a coming era.”

    I am looking forward to the “coming era”!

    1. Avatar

      Of course Pope Francis has done much more than recognize Mother Earth in his important encyclical on “Care for Our Common Home” (Laudato Si) which is recognized as one of the greatest documents on science and spirituality ever written. (Btw, its principle author was Fr. Sean McDonough, a student of mine and graduate of our ICCS program at Holy Names College before Ratzinger and Co. shut us down.) Clearly the right wing Catholic media machine, so enamored of Cardinal Burke who plays the chief Pope Francis heresy hunter (and who also compares homosexuals to “murderers” and is a completely self-hating gay prelate–see my review on “In the Closet of the Vatican” in Tikkun magazine) has never read the second Vatican council’s texts on reaching out to and entering into dialog with other faith traditions (of which indigenous are the oldest, dah!). So they project hatred onto their scapegoats including other traditions and the so-called “new age” and call it religion. Or church. Evil happens. It is among us. It is very well funded.

    2. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Thomas,
      So many of us are looking for to the coming era. But there will be plenty of doctrinal skirmishes and theological outbreaks until it comes. Or maybe it is already here in some hearts and minds, but not enough yet to bring about a shift. Your comment reinforces what we already knew. People in power want to stay in power. There is also a conservative fear that new ideas might change the way we live. That threatens the power structure that has reigned for centuries. In my experience, the greater the resistance, the truer the progress. We must be getting close judging by all that you have revealed here. So we must continue to see the coming era in our mystical imagination and hone our expectations for a more just and loving life for all.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  4. Avatar

    For some reason I am unable to access Matthew’s video. The image is gray and blank and if I click on it, it says it’s “private”. This happened once before but the video finally came through that time. Technical difficulties? I do love these meditations!

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Elaine,
      We are sorry you are having trouble with the video. Others have had trouble from time to time, but no one consistently. Its a mystery. My suggestion is to access the video through YouTUBE. Just search for Matthew Fox and the title of the meditation and it will pop up. I’ve had to do this once myself. If this happens more regularly, please let us know.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  5. Avatar

    Dearr Matthew and friends
    Tho’ the comments above relate to the meditation on Dec 10, I am responding on January 16 here in Australia where what was relevant at that time is just as evident today – the climate deniers vilifying those calling for care of the earth etc. I draw comfort and strength from Jesus who prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Surely we are no better vilifying them eh? However, the slowest to catch on cannot deny the devastation of the bush fires here in Australia and the impact this will have on the environment, the animals, insects, housing, jobs, lifestyle, living conditions, food production and economy of Australia and its people. Floods and droughts don’t have the FEAR FACTOR OF FIRES. We have been given a wake up call at a time when the media does service. Thank you Matthew for Original Blessing and your workshops in Sydney many years back. I was lucky to have Sean Mc Donough and Cyril Halley when on sabbatical at Turramurra. Thank you all for your caring and inspiration.

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