We put words between ourselves and things. Even God has become another conceptual unreality in a no-man’s land of language that no longer serves as a means of communion with reality.

The solitary life, being silent, clears away the smoke-screen of words that man has laid down between his mind and things. In solitude we remain face to face with the naked being of things. 92

It is a tiny bit humorous to read a writer of Merton’s prodigious output critiquing the use of words that we put “between ourselves and things.”

But he makes an important point. When I turn everything into a concept, a mental framework, a construct of language, I lose touch “with the naked being of things.”

Much of the power in Merton’s writing comes from the fact that he used words to call his readers into silence. He struggled in his writing to clear “away the smoke-screen of words that man has laid down between his mind and things.”

Merton wants me to hear beneath the words the sound of the Divine Mystery who speaks to me in the silence that comes when words run out. He calls me to open to the Presence to whom his words point. He attempts to expand my consciousness beyond that place where I am bound by my small concepts. He aimed to help me move beyond the mental formulations in which I have sought comfort and control.

This exercise makes Merton’s language in places a bit opaque and at times somewhat obscure. At points his writing seems to wander before he returns to pen passages of lyrical beauty that break open the reader’s heart to the reality he is attempting to evoke. Then I find myself moved to the silence of solitude where I come “face to face with the naked being of things.”

The best spiritual writing moves me to silence and openness where the Divine Presence haunts all of life. From this place I turn from my reading and encounter the Presence that has been elicited in words, present in all of life.

In what ways do words become for me a barrier between myself and the “naked being of things”?

What is my experience when I come to the end of words and find myself immersed in silence?

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