His intense love for literature sparked the desire to be a writer. Similarly, I have found that the more I read the more I want to write, and vice versa. Merton had a lifelong devotion to writing which is evident through his journals, editing, books, critiques and contemplations.
His early diaries allow readers to “see Thomas Merton as an intelligent, well-read and well-traveled ‘graduate,’ who with poignant sarcasm perceives his surroundings and gives his commentary on them.” His vulnerability and honesty is evident through his diaries as well as later published books such as Contemplation in a World of Action where he reacts and wrestles through his own beliefs and practices.
“Writing out of a deep experience of the reality of God gave Merton a kind of instinct for the presence of grace in the world.”
He utilized his gift for the building up of the kingdom, allowing others to experience God through him the way he had through so many writers before him.
There are many authors Merton attributed his learnings to including Dante, John Dryden, D.H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, Etienne Gilson, William Faulkner, Wendell Berry, Meister Eckhart, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Boris Pasternak, Richard Crenshaw, Rainer Maria Rilke and many others.
Specifically through the literary influences of T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Gerard Manley Hopkins and William Blake, Thomas Merton found himself gradually coming to a deeper appreciation of the Christian faith.
These writers, along with Merton’s influence on spiritual writing, will be focused upon in the coming posts.