Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Rituals of Ordinary Life - Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton I think it was, wrote of life's rituals, for example the ritual of preparing and enjoying his daily coffee. His was in a time before internet blogs and yet he was a prolific writer. His autobiography, the Seven Storey Mountain, might well have been written as a blog had he lived today.

Keeping a personal diary going involves some self discipline of collecting one's thoughts. The collected thoughts might well reflect the 'rich tapestry' of life but the daily events themselves often do not seem that significant. A drama or point of apparent huge concern does not neccessarily present itself as worthy of specific note each week. The great personal diarist, Samuel Pepys, opens his mammoth C17 diary which I regard as a precursor to today's blogs, with (courtesy Penguin Classics)

"January The Lords day. This morning we were lying lately in the garret) I rose. Put on my suit with great skirts, having not lately worn any other clothes but them. We went to Mr Gunnings Church at Exeter House, where he made a very good sermon..."

Apart from the facts that today is Saturday August 1st 2009 rather than a Sunday in January 1660 and that men's attire is different, the points he makes sound very familiar.

Some rituals over the past week reflecting those of the past few weeks are the walk along the short stretch of Thames riverpath on the NW side of Vauxhall Bridge to Pimlico Gardens on the way to the the office. The Thames at high tide especially in rain and wind is almost like a seascape. Like Thomas Merton daily coffee making is a ritual and not a habit. Quiet simple Mass on Monday nights; brief greetings from people in Wimbledon streets; mealtime conversations. Even the early morning commutes on SWTrains are rituals rather than chores although like beauty perhaps that is more a question of the mind of the commuter beholder. Likewise some of the difficulties encountered in life can at least after the event be enriching experiences although that is not to understate the huge burdens that beset so many - being human can be very hard.

On reflection however much of the ordinariness of everday life can be viewed and experienced as positviely challenging and fulfilling or negatively habitual and burdensome. Thomas Merton's approach to daily life as comprising many rituals if I have interpreted him correctly is really enriching.


  1. Fellow BU Blogger Barnaby reports difficulty in posting comments so this is a test

  2. Hi Jerry
    I'll try again!
    My original post was just to say I thought your post was thoughtful, well written and moving.
    Hope this gets past the censor!


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