Thomas Merton: ‘Help. I Can’t Go on Like This’

Bells on Patmos, Greece (RM Berger)
I am a great fan of church bells. From my front stoop I can hear the Howard University Founders Library bells at noon, six, and midnight.

I’ve sat in the garden at the National Cathedral some Sundays and vibrated with the explosive tones of the carillon and hand-rung peal bell practices.

Bells claim a community. Bells give an organizing principle in a chaotic world. Bells tell us we are home. Here’s a quote from Thomas Merton’s journals on the bells at Gethsemani:

“Please help me. what am I going to do? I can’t go on like this. You can see that! Look at the state I am in. what ought I to do? Show me the way.” As if I needed more information or some kind of sign!

…suddenly, as soon as I had made that prayer, I became aware of the wood, the trees, the dark hills, the wet night in my imagination, I started to hear the great bell of Gethsemani ringing in the night…–Thomas Merton

From A Thomas Merton Reader, ed. by Thomas P. McDonnell, (Image Books, 1989)

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