Saturday, September 20, 2008

le pointe vierge

Thomas Merton taught that the moment of mystical union and ecstasy can happen anywhere. I wonder if that also means anytime. However I suspect that this is the ability developed by a writer whose writing is a mediatative practice. As the author of Writring Down to the Bones has taught us, writing can be -- as it has been for her -- one's spiritual practice. So one sits and writes freely withoput stopping except that one observes. If I slow the pace of touching these keys, I rest in a more gentle place and the sense of doing this is freed up. This is part of the mindfulness. Are we breathing. I mean are wee noticing our breath. And next comes the fingers' dance. Are our fingers gently grazing on these keys to cheww the cud of these letters and give us hope for illuminatoin and epiphany. AEpiphany is not a mystery. The monks understand that epiphany comes from simplicity.

This week I learned that St. Benedict's rule is actually a gentle opening for possibility. A rule -- I didn't know -- is a freeing up of grace, a portal. The word criterion rests most gently on my ears for this. Or perhaps a map is how I should see a rule. A map is not inhibiting. A map frees me up from my fear of getting lost.

You may ask why I picked the title "virgin point." I learned from the great contemporary contemplative Cynthia Bourgeault in her book Mystic Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God -- or perhaps once knew and was reminded that Thomas Mewrton experienced a mystic union with humanity and the universe while standing on the corner of Walnut and 4th street in Louisville Kentucky. Now I've seen on YouTube a film in which the square is dedicated as Thomas Merton Square.

There's the use of a symbol of immortality. Now the street reminds us of the call to the life eternal and the contemplative life, the simjplified life, the good life. Merton lead the way in cross-cultural and cross-religious dialogue. And he joined the ranks of writing monks. What a mystery it is that mystics say they experience ex-stasis, standing outside themselves, and aporia apophasis, speaking beyond language into bewilderment or as Michael Sells calls it, Languages of Unsaying.

What's the point? Exactly, the point is what? The question is key. Suzanne K. Langer says "If we would have new knowledge we must get a whole new world of questions." So Merton articulated the virgin point, "le pointe vierge" -- I like the French. The word vierge sounds like "verge" and it makes me feel like leaning into a mystical experience. So we enter at the point. Have I made my point? my mother used to say. I'd prefer to say, do you experience a point, touch a point, see a point. You have to get the point -- that means for yourself. Merton says its there. But I come back to my point thatI feel deeply that Merton's precosity at this relates to his writing practice as much as anything else.

Are mystics great writers, or writers great mystics or both.