Still thinking some of Thomas Merton, and the 40th anniversary of his death, as I mentioned in the previous entry this morning. I had hoped to find that someone had posted on YouTube the film that was made at the Bangkok conference, of him speaking right before his accidental electrocution, but no such luck. I did find a clip from the 1984 film, which I possess on videotape, called Merton: A Film Biography, but that was the best of any such documentation a quick search revealed.
The last words of his journal were incidental, as one ought to expect with unexpected death, and are illuminating only in their lack of pretense or weight, kind of reminding me of the way that the "Year In Review" meme that people do in December on LiveJounal can somehow sort of sketch something real about our lives, even if is nothing of the sort of thing we would actually choose as important or illustrative of what our lives mean to us. Two days before his death, on Sunday, 8 December 1968, Merton wrote:
Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In a little while I leave this hotel. I go to say Mass at St. Louis Church, lunch at the Apostolic Delegation, then on to the Red Cross place this afternoon. No mail here yet except a letter from Winifred (hippie girl at Redwoods) forwarded from Calcutta.The last words of Thomas Merton, "Fr. Louis," in that bit of film were always striking to me, in that sort of eerie way things sound only when you look back at them. He concludes the presentation he was making with:
So I will disappear from view and we can all have a Coke or something. Thank you very much.He had lunch with some of the company and returned to take some afternoon rest and a shower, and coming out from the shower was electrocuted by the floor lamp in the room, with its faulty wiring, and which fell on top of him, severely burning him by the time the body was felt.
At the funeral at Gethsemani, which Chrysogonus talked about with me and Erik during my first trip to the Abbey over Fall Break in October 1995, Chrysogonus had the closing words of Merton's breakthrough autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, read to conclude the service:
But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Christi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani:
That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men.