Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton on Man’s Dominion over “Every Creeping Thing”

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As more of the world’s population begins to question the damaging use of non-renewable resources such as oil and coal, a new ecological consciousness has developed in our society. This mindset, however, begs the question, what is our true motivation for preserving our environment? Money, business, and international power undoubtedly play large roles in the burgeoning “green movement,” while at the same time push us to maintain our modern ways of life.

Trappist monk Thomas Merton, however, placed respect and responsibility at the forefront of his argument for a stronger connection to nature. For him, it was unjust to view the natural world merely as an object for manipulation according to our own purposes. Instead, he believed that people must see their surroundings on a deep and spiritual level to understand their place in the world.

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton by Monica Weis, SSJ, explores the powerful influence of nature on Merton’s spiritual development and ecological consciousness. She specifically illuminates his journey from mere delight in nature to a committed responsibility for its welfare—a movement that placed him ahead of his time on environmental issues and unique in his approach to our relationship with nature.

Merton’s commitment to increasing environmental awareness grew exponentially during his twenty-seven years at the Abbey of Our Lady Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky. His personal commitment to ecological preservation began after reading conservationist Rachel Carson’s seminal work, Silent Spring, which moved him to write to her. In his letter, he recognized and praised her commitment to the natural world. Already a prolific writer himself, Merton dedicated his talents to conveying a love and respect for nature to all of his readers, becoming a prophet of both revelation and revolution.

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton explores Merton’s acute sense of place, showing his spiritual development and increasing reverence for the natural world from his early life in Prades, France, to his entrance into the monastery in 1949. Weis delves into his writings, studying his letter to Rachel Carson and examining passages from his personal journals to offer evidence of the multiple ways in which nature and ordinary experiences influenced his writing, thinking, and praying. She examines how his years of solitude and reflection at the monastery led to a deeper understanding of his “inner and outer landscapes,” a process that was fostered by his detailed observation of his surroundings as well as his love of photography. Weis utilizes an assortment of letters, journals, reading notebooks, and published book reviews to give readers a comprehensive understanding of the causes of and influences on Merton’s passion for the world around him.

Much has been written on Merton’s spirituality, mysticism, advocacy of social justice, and promotion of interfaith understanding. The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton, however, shows how he became one of America’s most respected advocates for ecological consciousness. We are only given one world, and stewardship demands our responsibility to ensure its safety for generations to come.

The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton is a volume in the University Press of Kentucky’s Culture of the Land series, edited by Norman Wirzba. Enjoy other titles from this series:

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13 Finalists Announced for the 2014 Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame

Following last year’s inaugural class of inductees into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, 13 writers from the Commonwealth have been nominated for the honor this year. Only six of these beloved native sons and daughters will be inducted for this year’s class, announced at an induction ceremony slated for Thursday, January 23, 6:30 pm, at the Carnegie Center. It is free and open to the public.

To be eligible for induction this year, the writer must have been deceased, connected significantly to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the author of published and enduring fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

“These extraordinary writers are not only artists, they are authentic Kentuckians who spent their lives telling stories of the people, places and culture of our state, ” said Neil Chethik, executive director of the Carnegie Center.

According to Chethik, the purpose of the Hall of Fame is 1) to honor great writers and writing around Kentucky, 2) to affirm and promote Kentucky’s rich literary legacy, and 3) to provide a place where children and adults can learn about the great books and writers who came from (or through) Kentucky.

The 2014 finalists come from various regions in Kentucky and represent writers from many genres–children’s books, historical nonfiction, and autobiography, among them.

Congrats to all of this year’s honorees!

This year’s 13 finalists are:

James Lane Allen (Lexington)

Rebecca Caudill (Cumberland)

Thomas Clark (Lexington)

Guy Davenport (Lexington)

Janice Holt Giles (Adair County)

James Baker Hall (Lexington)

Etheridge Knight (Paducah)

Thomas Merton (Nelson County)

Jim Wayne Miller (Bowling Green)

Alice Hagen Rice (Shelbyville)

Effie Waller Smith (Pike County)

Jesse Stuart (Riverton)

Hunter S. Thompson (Louisville)

UPK Books by Honored Writers:


Happy Birthday, Thomas Merton!

Thomas MertonFor twenty-seven years, renowned and beloved monk Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915–December 10, 1968) belonged to Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery established in 1848 amid the hills and valleys near Bardstown, Kentucky.

Thomas Merton was also one of the finalists for the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, which we’ve been featuring on our blog and website for the past week. Merton himself once said “[a]rt enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time,” and we’ve had a lot of fun celebrating and re-reading these great writers.Thomas Merton's Gethsemani

You can tread the paths Merton took during his solitary hikes in the woods and experience the landscapes that inspired him in Thomas Merton’s Gethsemani. Featuring dramatic black-and-white photographs by Harry L. Hinkle and artful text by Merton scholar Monica Weis, this beautiful book is currently being offered at an 80% discount through our holiday sale.