Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Merton: A Film Biography": when does writing about oneself and one's ideas transcend humility?

I scrubbed plans to go out at the last minute as the sky kept throwing up like a sick child last night.  Fortunately, the little 57-minute lesson, “Merton: A Film Biography”, directed by Paul Wilkes, was handily available (through Netflix) in my storm cellar.  .
Merton (1915-1968) became a Trapist monk, living simply in a cottage in the Abbey of our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky.  Upon some prodding, be broke the tradition of keeping a low profile and became a prolific writer, telling his own story, and then venturing in to controversial topics, challenging the Catholic Church to take a more activist position against nuclear weapons and even US foreign policy in Vietnam.  

Isn’t it morally inconsistent, he asked, to take moral stands against contraception (let alone abortion) on a specious interpretation of the idea of the sacredness of human life, and then turn the other way to the slaughter of adults – especially conscripted young men – in war?

I wonder, also, about when Catholics believe the soul comes into being.  Does contraception deprive an existing soul a new incarnation?  I doubt that physics supports that idea (see the book review "I Am a Strange Loop" June 1 on the books log for more.

Merton was concerned with the Marxist idea of "from each according to his ability... ", etc., as a spiritual idea.  The "natural family" movement says that this idea belongs in the extended family as a eusocial motive.  
In the days long before the Internet, Merton set aside some of the most controversial writings to be “published privately”, whatever that could mean.  Did he have a real world “Friends list”?

Merton kept writing, when the Catholic Church and Vatican normally suppress any original thinking (and its publication) from lower or mid level clerics.  

Merton died suddenly after speaking at a retreat in Thailand, supposedly by being accidentally electrocuted by a room fan. 
The DVD, formally distributed by First Run Features, dates back to 1984. 

The DVD offers an extended "short" (another full hour) film by Father Matthew Kelty  in several chapters, "Remembering Thomas Merton" (2003), by the Thomas Merton Foundation in Louisville, KY. here 

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