Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Smaller World Bigger Peace (Thomas Merton)

"No, the great business of our time is this: for one man to find himself in another one who is on the other side of the world. Only by such contacts can there be peace, can the sacredness of life be preserved and developed and the image of God manifest itself in the world."

           ~ Thomas Merton, A Life in Letters, p. 107

Though Merton spent much of his time in solitude among the peaceful grounds of Abbey of Gethsemani where he resided, he saw the importance of communication and it's association with peace. To build real friendships with others living in vastly different cultures cultivates a broader understanding of the inherent similarities that we all share as well as an appreciation for the beautiful diversities that are interwoven within mankind's tapestry.  It is easier to callously push a button that will obliterate the lives of thousands whom you have no association or understanding with, people of whom your perception of has been shaped by propaganda and prejudice, than to do the same with the knowledge that a culture you appreciate and a people you love will be destroyed. 

The above passage was taken from a letter Merton had written to a Russian writer, Boris Pasternak, whom he had written to several times and had felt a deep kinship with. Merton described his friendship with Pasternak this way:

"It is as if we met on a deeper level of life on which individuals are not separate beings...it is as if we were known to one another in God."

In one of his letters to Pasternak he writes:

"Although we are separated by great distances and even greater barriers it gives me pleasure to speak to you as to one whom I feel to be a kindred mind....I am convinced that you understand me perfectly. It is true that a person always remains a person and utterly separate and apart from every other person. But it is equally true that each person is destined to reach with others an understanding and a unity which transcend individuality, and Russian tradition describes this with a concept we do not fully possess in the West-sobornost."

I was curious as to the definition of sobornost so I looked it up, this is Wikipedia's definition of the term:

Sobornost (Russian: Собо́рность "Spiritual community of many jointly living people")[1] is a term coined to underline the need for cooperation between people at the expense of individualism on the basis that the opposing groups focus on what is common between them.

After reading the letters between Merton and Pasternak and Merton's thoughts towards the importance of international dialogue and relationships I couldn't help but wonder of what Merton would have thought about the internet. Would he have had a blog? I think so! He was an avid letter writer and loved to communicate to people all across the globe. He took full advantage of communicating in any way possible in reaching people and oftentimes became frustrated at the limitations of doing so (slow mail, mail getting lost, etc.) It's my theory that he would have taken advantage of the opportunity the internet gives us all of being able to communicate and form friendships with people we otherwise would never haven gotten the priveledge of become familiar with because of our geographical limitations.

Through my experience in blogging I have met extradorinary individuals from places like Australia, the Phillipines, New Zealand, England, India, Argentina, Indonesia and beyond. I've learned things about their cultures that have touched me, enriched me and sometimes have surprised me! Besides learning things about the way in which we are different I have also formed real friendships. I've laughed alongside some of them during their light-hearted moments, I've shared their sorrow during  somber ones. No matter where one's location is we are all human. We all want to be loved, we all want to lead peaceful lifes, we all want to laugh and experience joy. The more people reach out to others who are different from them, whether it be on the internet, through letter-writing or during their travels the smaller the world becomes. The bond within the Body of Christ is strengthened. People don't seem so distant and different. We no longer perceive those across the globe as strange foreigners of whom we have no compatability or understanding with but as friends and even sometimes as family.

Any thoughts? Have you had the experience of connecting with others who live across the globe? What was your medium-the internet, traveling, exchange programs,etc? How has it enriched your life and/or changed your perspective? Please share!


  1. Thanks Jessica, I too have experienced the great value of travel and learning from different and varied cultures. A couple of years ago I went to work in a homeless shelter in Cape Town, SA and then worked with a children's Bible Holiday Club in Durban SA. Outside of this I've been to Indonesia, Singapore along with more western cultures like Ireland, Italy and Canada. Each time I've learnt a lot about different cultures and peoples and also learnt something about myself. I hope that the internet won't stop people going to places but rather will encourage people to visit. Anytime spent with people, particularly those with different opinions and cultures is always enriching.

  2. Ok, Jessica:
    This is JUST TOO weird to be coincidental. That's all I'll say except to say look for my blog tomorrow!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing Mike. You've had some amazing opportunities for traveling...I would love to be able to go to half those places in my lifetime! I agree, internet shouldn't replace our desire to physically travel and visit other people across the globe. I think though, for those of us who are unable to travel because of either limited funds or perhaps just the situation we find ourselves in life (perhaps like caring for someone who is disabled or elderly), the internet makes it possible for us to reach out to others.

    Thank you so much for your thoughts! :)

  4. You have me curious Chris! I certianly will check out your article tomorrow...thanks for stopping by :)

  5. I have learnt a lot about other cultures after I started blogging. I have made some amazing friends,thanks to the internet.Its been an overwhelming journey,in many ways. I have evolved as an individual,a stronger person..learning to deal with my problems,instead of feeling sorry for myself. I have learnt to connect with God,and restored my faith in Him..thanks to you Jessica..I never want to leave this world of mine.

  6. The internet has certainly made the world a much smaller place and all forms of communication are taken place that would be otherwise impossible. You are a great example of spreading one's message via blogging as you do reach the masses, I for one rely upon your words of wisdom regarding God and his message Personally I'm proud to have reached folks from around the globe via my blog as word of Erin is flung to the far reaches, blogging is an invaluable tool for many different reasons not the least...friendships. Thank you for the post and take care!!!

  7. internet has certainly brought the world closer. we sit at home to explore the unknown. blogging has been my passions indispensable spirit shortly. it has connected me to beautiful minds, once unknown and now known, just like now. i am sharing your space, reading your verse and jotting mine, thus build up a bridge of cultural and spiritual exchange. it's all GOD'S WISH and GOD'S WAY to experience life.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing David! I agree, it makes a communication with others that would otherwise be impossible..and it's great to hear other people's stories and learn more about them. I know that I've learned a lot visiting your blog..about loyalty, compassion, service and friendship. I feel blessed to have connected with you :) ~blessings

  9. Yes! Merton would have blogged prolifically :-) Great post, more people need to be conscious of a global humanity!

  10. Thank you Pam! Yeah, I believe so too! ~blessings

  11. Since blogging i have talked to people from totally different cultures, let alone countries. I have had the opportunity to visit dozens of different countries and cultures while blogging without having to use my passport. This is one of the wonders of blogging.

  12. I've made some wonderful internet friends all over the world. Most of them are at www.flickr.com. It's a photo storage site with various groups you can join-groups on any topic you can image. I've also met some wonderful people through my blog. The really terrific thing about flickr is that you get to see the area people are from in their photos.

    I glad you like my blog - keep reading and you'll be a wonderful photographer in no time!