Welcome to The Company I Keep, the newest blog, and soon to be vlog on YouTube, from Pathways to Possibilities. The idea for this blog/vlog originated from a Pathway’s Life On the Path blog post in which I pondered the question:
What does the company I keep say about me?
In answer to the question, I outlined those individuals whose words, ideas, and examples have been my constant traveling companions as I make my way in this life; those individuals I can turn to, without fail, for solace, guidance, inspiration, grace, humor, perspective, and respite. To read the original blog post and to see my list of eight traveling companions, click here: https://www.pathwaystopossibilities.com/post/the-company-we-keep.
Throughout history, books have remained relevant because they teach us, inspire us, encourage us, motivate us, and thereby help us come to know our own true potential. Books stand the test of time. And I for one am better for them. Fundamentally, my traveling companions are books.
If you want new ideas, read old books. If you want old ideas, read new books.
I read books that spark curiosity, challenge perspectives, impart wisdom, ask meaningful questions, and change lives. The golden mean of spirituality, self-discovery, and self-help. The principle of the golden mean, laid down by Aristotle 2,500 years ago, is to find moderation, or balance, in extremes. Not that I see spirituality, self-discovery, and self-help as extremes, but often the ties that bind are difficult to understand.
The goal of this blog is to share my thoughts on what I am reading as I search for my golden mean. If you are interested, you can find a recent list of the books I have been pondering here:
The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton by Sophfronia Scott
The publisher describes The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton as follows:
In The Seeker and the Monk, Scott mines the extensive private journals of one of the most influential contemplative thinkers of the past for guidance on how to live in these fraught times.
It was the juxtaposition of a seeker and a monk that got my attention. To be clear:
The Monk – Thomas Merton. A white Catholic monk who lived most of his life in a monastery in Kentucky, the author of The Seven Story Mountain, who died in 1968 at the age of 53.
The Seeker – Sophfronia Scott. An Episcopalian woman of color, a novelist, essayist, and contemplative thinker, born in 1966.
What the Seeker and the Monk share is a searching nature when it comes to faith. As Scott shares in her book:
I am a seeker into the mystery of what tethers my life to the divine …
I want to talk of these things with a likeminded being.
It was the Monk’s written word that first inspired her, providing moments of inquiry, affirmation, surprise, and disagreement. His writing fueled an on-going internal dialogue that helped her forge her own spiritual journey.
The book blends their combined insights and experiences across a wide range of topics. From insights on when faith tires, to ways to make spiritual friends, to serving the world, and finally, how to pray.
While this alone makes the book an insightful read, for me the real value was found in the quiet of the margins.
The Seeker and the Monk are two very different people with two very different vantage points on history. Arguably, they have little in common, yet through Merton’s words, Scott finds a shared questioning related to faith, which she thought she understood until she traveled to Gethsemane and walked in the footsteps of Merton himself.
Merton wrote about being captivated by his surroundings, how the very landscape took hold of his spirit. “The Spirit of God got hold of me ….” he wrote in his journal.
Standing in the very same field, Scott says:
But as I said before, this thing had a hold on me. It was silence.
I had no doubt it was the same silence that Merton, enthralled with what he had heard on his first walk, had called “the marvelous quiet!” I heard it, Thomas, and it was indeed so stunning that I could only marvel.
Two desperate souls, drawn together by words and connected forever by a shared experience. The Seeker and the Monk became connected in such a visceral way that the Seeker carried a piece of the Monk with her, a piece that enabled and amplified deep and meaningful conversations.
We should all be so fortunate. The world at large could use more such connection.