Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

     Once again I’ve been led to pick up a book that my favorite brother in Christ loaned me a while back at exactly the time God knew I would most benefit from reading it. I enjoyed reading Thomas Merton’s autobiographical work Seven Story Mountain as well as his other books on spiritual reflection and contemplation, so I figured I would like this book as well. Though unlike Merton’s other works in terms of format, some of the subject matter, and even writing style, I loved this work of his as much as his others.
     This piece includes a number of beautifully poetic snapshots of nature I’d classify as the prose poem equivalent of haiku in terms of subject matter and spiritual insight. There are a number of reflections from daily life occurrences, current events Merton processed and commented on through thoughtful prose, and some interesting commentary on works by writers and philosophers—those who were Christian, atheist, or agnostic. I found myself literally laughing out loud at some of the situations and observations Merton included about life in the monastery, modern day politics, religion, and the unusual, sometimes ridiculous antics of humans in general.
     I marked a number of pages, because I want to return to the nuggets of wisdom found on them. I like that it is such a mix of musings on the world, some serious, some humorous, some lyrical and concise, others thoughtful and opinionated.
     Even the title of the book is perfect for it. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander lets the reader know right away that this is a collection of assumptions, naturally containing all of the author’s biases and religious, political leanings. While calling into question the blind acceptance of all technology as being good for the human race and signs of progress, he invites us to a deeper appreciation of nature, a new way of looking at the roles of machines in our lives, and gives us a view from the perspective of someone who was largely cut-off from mainstream media, though clearly affected by the mainstream thinking, current events, moral quandaries, and politics of his time.
     I highly recommend reading this book. You can purchase it at Amazon here.
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