‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time’, one of the many brainy quotes of Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton was the original name of Father M Louis, who was born in 1915 and met his death accidentally in 1968 after being electrocuted while on a trip in Thailand. He was a Roman Catholic monk, a poet and a prolific writer on spiritual and social themes. Merton’s origins had forerun his capabilities as an artist and contemplative. His parents, Ruth Jenkins and Owen Merton met while in Paris when both were there to study art (Merton et al, 2005). As an artist and a poet he wrote over sixty books and hundreds of poems that focused on spirituality, religion, politics and other social aspects of life. More specifically the various quotes he wrote were meant to help man to understand himself better. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages.
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Merton converted to Roman Catholicism after his adolescence while studying at Columbia University in 1941. He then joined the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks where he spent seven years which brought about changes in his self-understanding. Gethsemani, ‘….was the place where he achieved his identity as a man, a monk, a priest, a man of God, a poet and a prophet. For he was all of these, and he grew into them and developed in them in this one place’ (Herron, 2005). Through his poetic works and other articles he became a prophet of language. Most of his poems stemmed from his strong art of listening to others, they were a fruit of listening.
In conclusion, Merton's influence has grown since his death and he is widely recognized as an important 20th-century American Catholic writer and priest. His focus on social activism led to the re-discovery of Christian meditation and brought it to a wider audience. His life continues to be an object of research both in academics and also in spirituality as well as his prolific writings.
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