Upon reading the spiritual autobiography of Thomas Merton, the immediate details of his life that boldly jutted out and painted the overall portrait of the man was his controlled yet cyclonic whirlwind of pell-mell inconsistency and the overall amorphousness of his ever evolving life up into manhood.
Thomas Merton's life seemed to be the never-ending quest for the ultimate truth, and there were many byways that he chose in order to obtain that: literature, academia, writing, traveling, communism, rollicking around with friends and girlfriends in playful mirth, all the way down the gamut. The veneer that he presents, as illustrated in the autobiography, seemed to be one of gradual and acute worldly dissatisfaction, a man who had an internal "been there done that" mentality and who could never be really satiated, despite his intellectual and Herculean efforts. And Merton was, no doubt about it, a brilliant man, but he never seemed to have the appropriate venue for all that he was eternally endowed with. Though he was young and had so much going for him in a manner realtional to the world, it could not soothe the cut of his injured relationship to the outer world in which he occupied. It was as though he was a reluctant participator in a mysterious game where Love was the backdrop, and his inner tumultuousness gradually conformed to the Will, and it is the latter aspect that makes the story so fasciniting, because it encompasses the supernatural, the pragmatic, the logical, the Divine, all meshed together in a ball of wax.
What makes the Seven Storey Mountain so gripping is that the reader follows Thomas Merton through his various escapades of self-absorption down to his conversion and then on down to his monastic vocation. But with each step, the discernment process is intricately exposed in all its minute details, as well as its various joys and sufferings. He was a man who could write beautiful English yet could never get published. He was a man who was philosophically deep yet could not really apply that depth to anything concrete. He was passionate in his seriousness yet that made him somewhat of an outsider, but it was not until he stopped fighting God that things started to happen, and he saw the Divine tests for exactly what they were: Gifts. But it takes a long time to come to that understanding and it is not always easily accepted. Like Merton, one just has to run him or herself ragged with fighting the duality of the internal and external to come to that point, and the autobiography makes it known that it is not always a joy to have to hit the basest level of yourself to understand what you really are.
Overall, the work was quite nice to read, if not a tad bit preachy at times and other times overly sanctimonious, but again, that can be attributed to the newness of Merton's calling, for he entered Gethsemani in 1942, and the partially approved text of the Seven Storey Mountain was approved in 1946, finally being published in 1948. But I thought it was a moving read that did affect my senses, and it will yours as well.