Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Orientalish Summer Travels: Abbey of Gethsemani

Lake near Thomas Merton's hermitage
In August, I stayed with my parents for a week at the Abbey of of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky.  It was a silent retreat, but we walked for hours around the grounds where the monk and writer Thomas Merton lived for most of his adult lie.  Merton rose to fame with his autobiography, Seven Story Mountain, and through his writing that advocated a deeply grounded, pacifist message in the late 50s and sixties.  Merton was significantly influenced by Eastern thought near the end of his life.
Merton's grave
His accidental death in 1968 occurred while he was traveling through Thailand to experience more fully the cultures that spawned these paths.  Merton's grave on the Abbey grounds (pictured right) had items of acknowledgement draped on it from pilgrims (like me, I suppose), crosses and stones growing pale from exposure to Kentucky sun, reminding me of Thoreau's gave in Concord, MA.

On an Orientalish note, Merton was intensely interested in Sufism, which he considered a "living" mystical tradition.  A book, Merton and Sufism: The Untold Story from Fons Vitae highlights his relationship with Sufism.
Abbey of Gethsemani after Compline
Book from Vons Vitae

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