I was browsing the shelves at the library the other day and came across a Thomas Merton book that was new to me, Thomas Merton in Alaska. Not only was the book new to me, but I had no idea Merton went to Alaska. The title page includes this information, “Prelude to the ‘The Asian Journal‘ The Alaskan Conferences, Journals and Letters.”
In 1968, before Merton left for a conference in Bangkok, he traveled to several places including Alaska and there the gave several talks. Much in the book is interesting but what strikes me the most is something included in the introduction, Merton wrote two days before he left the monastery,
I go with a completely open mind. I hope without illusions. My hope is simply to enjoy the long journey, profit by it, learn, change, & perhaps find something or someone who will me help advance in my own spiritual quest. I am not starting out with a firm plan never to return or with an absolute determination to return at all costs. I do feel there is not much here for me at the moment & that I need to be open to lots of new possibilities. I hope I shall be! But I remain a monk of Gethsemani. Whether or not I will end my days, here, I don’t know – & perhaps it is not important. The great thing is to respond perfectly to God’s will in this providential opportunity, whatever it may bring. (pp xi – xii)
As I have “mulled over” Merton’s remarks I have become more and more impressed with his attempt to be absolutely open to whatever the future may bring. He seemed to not want to grasp and hold onto the past and likewise not to have any illusions about what the future might bring.
Maybe something of his openness could be ours as we start another year.
Can we pray with Merton, ” … to respond perfectly to God’s will … whatever it may bring.”