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Document Details :

Title: Merton and the Red Thread
Author(s): HAYES, Kieran
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 28    Date: 2018   
Pages: 233-254
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.28.0.3285333

Abstract :
Inspired by ‘A Midsummer Diary for M’, the journal of Merton’s relationship with Margie Smith, a young nurse he met while in hospital, this essay examines the relationship between sexuality and spirituality. After a quarter of a century of celibate life, of austerity and prayer, Merton found love not in the abstract but in the arms of a young woman. The relationship revealed Merton at his most insecure and confused, struggling with the pain of the deep loneliness he carried within. Merton’s understanding of love, solitude and loneliness were changed by this encounter. He could finally write that ‘the ground of loneliness/Is Love’ and that solitude is ‘the wide-openness of love and freedom’. The ‘red thread’ refers to a 14th century Zen koan or riddle that challenges the spiritual seeker to confront the power of sexuality, rather than suppress it, to integrate the physical and spiritual and to become whole. The koan asks ‘Why cannot even the most enlightened person sever the red thread of passion?’

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