‘Thought and Life are One’: Thomas Merton on Vocation

Here is a selection from Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude, which reflects some of his thoughts on vocation and solitude. Merton’s reflection offers us a look at the interconnection of one’s vocation and seeing the world anew, which leads to peace and the recognition of God in all things. Living as we were created or called to be, to use some more traditional vocational language, is the condition for the possibility of integrated living.

A man [sic] knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live. Thus, if one is called to be solitary, he will stop wondering how he is to live and start living peacefully only when he is in solitude. But if one is not called to solitary life, the more he is alone the more will he worry about living and forgetting to live. When we are not living up to our true vocation, thought deadens our life, or substitutes itself for life, or gives in to life so that our life drowns out our thinking and stifles the voice of conscience. When we find our vocation — thought and life are one.

Suppose one has found completeness in his true vocation. Now everything is in unity, in order, at peace. Now work no longer interferes with prayer or prayer with work. Now contemplation no longer needs to be a special “state” that removes one from the ordinary things going on around him for God penetrates all. One does not have to thing of giving an account of oneself to anyone but him.

Photo: Merton Legacy Trust

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