I got this quote in today’s mail and it made me grateful for my own life and even the past two days which were spent not in my own country but in the lake country of Canada. Diane and I spent a weekend at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario at a lovely bed & breakfast called Blueberry Gate. Our hostess treated us very well and we’re likely to return. We got to enjoy a couple of performances at the Shaw Festival and very little television and only sparse internet, enough to send some text messages to our children and an update or two on Facebook.
This will give us some idea of the proper preparation that the contemplative life requires. A life that is quiet, lived in the country, in touch with the rhythm of nature and the seasons. A life in which there is manual work, the exercise of arts and skills, not in a spirit of dilettantism, but with genuine reference to the needs of one’s existence. The cultivation of the land, the care of farm animals, gardening. A broad and serious literary culture, music, art, again not in the spirit of Time and Life-(a chatty introduction to Titian, Prexiteles, and Jackson Pollock)-but a genuine and creative appreciation of the way poems, pictures, etc., are made. A life in which there is such a thing as serious conversation, and little or no TV. These things are mentioned not with the insistence that only life in the country can prepare a [person] for contemplation, but to show the type of exercise that is needed.
Thomas Merton. The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation. William H. Shannon, editor (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003): 131.