Itsy-bitsy Statues

When we give our lives to a larger purpose, whether we name it God, or kindness, or the earth, or Mystery, we can find meaning and transformation and spiritual growth. To worship something too small can distort and cheapen our lives. Even spiritual or religious things can be too small. Thomas Merton, who was a Trappist monk as well as a writer, said, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.”

Yard Statues DSC09950

When we get attached to our ideas, or images, or even our ways of praying, we can forget the largeness of what it’s all about. We can forget that spirituality is meant to awaken us to the larger whole of reality, of which we are a part. Rumi, the Sufi poet, put it this way: “Don’t be a cat toying with a mouse. Go after the love lion.”

Writer Annie Dillard, reflecting on Merton, said:

There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is all so self conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down… I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright.

Reality is bigger and more mysterious than the things we do, or the ideas we think, or the stuff we buy. If we get too attached to any small thing—wearing the right clothes, or going to the right parties, or having the latest gadget, or even going to the right church—we are filling up our temple with junk. If we fill up our temple with junk, we will miss the “gaps,” the wild places where the “winds pour down.” We will miss the magic.

Thomas Merton was quoted by Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Rumi quote is from Coleman Barks, The Soul of Rumi


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