Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

stepping off the escalator

Many of the Zen stories that are almost always incomprehensible in rational terms are simply the ringing of an alarm clock, and the reaction of the sleeper.  Usually the misguided sleeper makes a response which in effect turns off the alarm so he can go back to sleep. Sometimes he jumps out of bed with a shout of astonishment that it is so late.  Sometimes he just sleeps and does not hear the alarm at all.

art by lynn

But we in the West, living in the tradition of ego-centered practicality and geared entirely for the use and manipulation of everything, always pass from one thing to another, from cause to effect, from the first to the next to the last and then back to the first. Everything always points to something else, and hence we never stop anywhere because we cannot: as soon as we pause, the escalator reaches the end of the ride and we have to get off and find another one.

-Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite.