“I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
— Thomas Merton
I often think about Thomas Merton and his Fourth and Walnut Epiphany – a moment when he gazed upon his fellow human beings and saw within them the Divine connection.
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. […]
I confess, I most often think of Merton’s revelation when I am surrounded by strangers and feeling hemmed in and annoyed. And it helps. It helps me – when I am feeling disinclined to brotherly love – to remember that Merton could see us all shining like the sun. It reminds me that I believe we do all shine in the sight of God – that we all belong to Him – and remembering it makes me less cranky and judgmental.
Merton’s words were jostled in my memory upon reading this excellent piece on faith and Rock-and-Roll by Mark Judge and his citation of U2’s song Original of the Species, which celebrates you, individual, loved-into-being you, original to the species.
Merton was not the first to see the world shining, (St. Therese Couderc had a similar vision about all creation) and Bono was not the first to declare us each unique and expressly lovable in that uniqueness, but we don’t hear it enough. We need to hear it more. If we did, love would be easier and less mysterious.
Original of the Species, watch the video.
And please go read Julie’s thoughts on Merton and rock and roll.