This is a touching account of a true way to live one's life.
[The following entry from Merton's private journals describes the funeral of Herman Hanekamp, who did not succeed as a novice at Gethsemani, but who was allowed to live on Linton Farm, a property the Abbey owned. When Herman moved in, Merton wrote: "He came over in the rain with all his possessions in a mule cart. It was a pathetic sight." Many at the Abbey considered Hanekamp a "character" and a "bum". But Merton attests, perhaps seriously, that, of all the members of Gethsemani's community he had known to that point, he would have most wanted to be like Herman.]
This morning I went to the funeral of Herman Hanekamp in New Haven. Started out in the frost after dawn. The body laid out in the funeral parlor was that of a millionaire, a great executive. I never before saw Herman shaven, in a suit, least of all, in a collar and tie. He looked like one of the great of the earth. I was a pallbearer along with Andy Boone, Hanekamp's old friend Glen Price (a great stout man with a lined face like the side of an old building but very humble and gentle). Brothers Clement and Colman were pallbearers and another man with a shoelace necktie. . . .
When we came out of the church into the sun, carrying the coffin, the bright air seemed full of great joy and a huge freight train came barreling through the valley with a sound of power like an army. All the pride of the world of industry seemed, somehow, to be something that belonged to Herman. What a curious obsession with the conviction of him as a great, rich man, tremendously respected by the whole world! We drove back to bury him in the graveyard outside the monastery gate.
The bare woods stood wise and strong in the sun as if they were proud of some great success that had been achieved in secret with their connivance and consent.
As we carried the coffin through the sunlit yard, I listened with exaltation: it was hailed by the singing of skylarks on the second day of January.
What has triumphed here is not admired by anyone, despised even by the monks who also could not help thinking of Herman as a lazy man and an escapist. He had not taken seriously the world of business so important to us all. And now behold--a captain of industry!
Thomas Merton. A Search for Solitude. Edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996): 245.
Thought for the Day