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No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton

No Man Is an Island (1955)

by Thomas Merton

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Le nostre famiglie, le nostre comunità e la nostra cultura ci fanno quello che siamo. Una volta diventati quello che siamo, siamo ancora impensabili al di fuori dei nostri gruppi di appartenenza. Su di un'isola deserta formeremmo una associazione per giocare a pallone, se ne troviamo uno. Se una nuova infrastruttura si presenta e ci permette di entrare in contatto con tutti gli altri sul pianeta e ci mette in condizione di inventare nuovi tipi di connessioni, questa sarà una bella notizia! E' il caso di Internet. Ci offre l'opportunità di ripensare molte cose di quelle che pensavamo con le nostre presupposizioni circa la nostra natura e quella del mondo circostante.

Our families, our communities and our culture make us what we are. Once we are what we are, we are still unthinkable outside our groups with whom we live. On a desert island we’ll form an association with a ball if we can find one. So if a new infrastructure comes along that allows us to connect with everyone else on the planet and to invent new types of connections, this is big news indeed! This is the case with Internet. It gives us an opportunity to rethink many of our presuppositions about our nature and our world’s nature.

Le nostre connessioni sociali finora sono state ristrette dalla geografia e dagli atomi del mondo reale. La Rete è un mondo non naturale, un mondo che ci siamo costruiti noi stessi. I fatti della natura fuoriescono dalla Rete. Siamo in grado di renderci conto di quanto della nostra socialità sia dovuta non al mondo reale ma alla nostra stessa natura. La Rete ci fa confrontare con la cruda realtà, ci fa capire che siamo creature che si prendono cura di se stessi e con il mondo che condividiamo con gli altri. Viviamo in un contesto di significati: il mondo è più ricco di significati, più di quanto noi possiamo immaginare.

Our social connections until now have been constrained by geography and atoms: the real world. The Web is an unnatural world, one we have been built for ourselves. The facts of nature drop out of the Web. We can see reflected in the Web just how much of our sociality is due not to the nature of the real world but to the nature of ourselves. The Web confronts us with the brute fact that we are creatures who cares about ourselves and the world we share with others. We live within a context of meaning: the world is richer with meaning than we can imagine. ( )
  AntonioGallo | Nov 2, 2017 |
It took me a year and a half to read this book. I never really got into it. ( )
  MrDickie | Jul 12, 2017 |
To begin, a confession. I only read a portion of this book. I read the Prologue, the first chapter, on Love, the first parts of the second chapter, on Hope, and a few scattered bits of the remaining fourteen chapters. I just did not have the stomach for it. I am a pastor in the Reformed tradition, affirming the biblical truths laid out in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort. Merton was a Roman Catholic priest, of the mystical variety, and I couldn't make any theological sense out of what he was writing in what I read of this book. Some people may consider Merton to be a spiritual master. My impression from what I read here would be pseudo-spiritual master. About the only thing that was clear in what I read of this book is that Merton was a Universalist, although he did not clearly state that as his position, rather leaving it to be implied through the many repeated ways in which he seemed to affirm that all men and women by nature seek the love of God, a love that God freely gives to all men and women. At best, this is a heterodox position, and at worst, a heresy. It's persistent appearing was more than I could take, so I make the very rare move, for me, in not finishing this book, and finding no reason whatsoever to commend it to anyone else. ( )
  BradKautz | Nov 11, 2015 |
No Man is an Island is a reflection on the spiritual life. I'm aware that by using the word "spiritual," some assume "otherworldly." This couldn't be further from the truth. Merton has the entire person in mind—the person in relationship to God. He is concerned with our "integration in the mystery of Christ" (xxii).

The range of topics Merton covers is broad. He deals with everything from Love to Conscience, Solitude to Vocation, Intention to Charity. You can tell by reading these chapters that he has lived out his thoughts and ideas. He drills deep into human nature as he examines every aspect of our being in the light of God.

This book makes for great spiritual reading. I found that the best way to read it was to take it in small portions. To rush would be to miss his wisdom. I found his insight beneficial especially when I saw the tendencies he described in my own life. It takes time to make these discoveries.

My only frustration with Merton is the influence of Eastern Philosophy on his work. A good example of this is his words on Asceticism:

In order to spiritualize our lives and make them pleasing to God, we must become quiet. The peace of a soul that is detached from all things and from itself is the sign that our sacrifice is truly acceptable to God. (108)

In a few places like these, he makes the spiritual life sound like something Jesus certainly didn't experience. Jesus, who cried at Lazarus' tomb, who braided a whip to drive out money changers from the temple, and who begged God to relieve him of his burden, was anything but dispassionate!

That said, this volume is abundant in material to enrich the spiritual life of any thoughtful Christ follower. ( )
1 vote StephenBarkley | Mar 28, 2015 |
Too abstract, too airy, too many vague references to other things that are never actually mentioned. The Bible has more than enough vagueness in itself, but that has also its own historic reasons. This was written 50 years ago and it gave me absolutely nothing that the Gospel did not already give me.
Come on, Catholicism is in desperate need of a sweeping reform, a fresh look at the same old truths, and it needs the oxygen of plain English talk, especially in our times. But these type of books never dare to challenge the official doctrine imposed by the Vatican, they never provide anything with a bit of any real "flavor". Tell me about scientific and historic truth as being a different thing altogether from the Gospel's theological truths. Aknowledge the elephant in the room, which is the scientific impossibility of many things you are talking about, and propose some ways for science and faith to co-exist, as they can do. Acknowledge the fact that most catholics today have absolutely no idea about the real concept of "God", as articulated by St Augustine and others. Tell me about the money that the Church owns, how about that, before exhalting poverty and telling me to devoid myself of all my material goods. Tell me about the Church's unwillingness to open her eyes to the fact that homosexual love is just a different kind of love, and it is not a "disordered emotion", like the catechism says. Tell me that faith is mainly a way to live well with yourself and with other people (like Pope Benedict dared to say in one of his books).
None of that here.
Religion is made of spiritual life, yes, but it should also be made of practical life, facts and examples. In this book there is none of that. Only grand statements, expressed in a rather cerebral and theoretical way.
Matter of tastes, but I need examples if you want me to understand what you are saying with your philosophical meanderings.
Having said that, there are some passages that I found very inspiring. ( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
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Please distinguish this collection of Thomas Merton's essays, No Man Is an Island (1955), from Johannes Mario Simmel's similarly titled novel, Niemand ist eine Insel (in English, No Man Is an Island; 1948). Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 015665962X, Paperback)

A recapitulation of his earlier work Seeds of Contemplation, this collection of sixteen essays plumbs aspects of human spirituality. Merton addresses those in search of enduring values, fulfillment, and salvation in prose that is, as always, inspiring and compassionate. “A stimulating series of spiritual reflections which will prove helpful for all struggling to...live the richest, fullest and noblest life” (Chicago Tribune).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:12 -0400)

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"Here, in one of the most popular of his more than thirty books, Thomas Merton provides further meditations on the spiritual life in sixteen thoughtful essays, beginning with his classic treatise "Love Can Be Kept Only by Being Given Away." This sequel to Seeds of Contemplation provides fresh insight into Merton's favorite topics of silence and solitude, while also underscoring the importance of community and the deep connectedness to others that is the inevitable basis of the spiritual life - whether one lives in solitude or in the midst of a crowd."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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