Thomas Merton

This story on Thomas Merton reminds us of how we make the world with our minds. How we see determines what we see, how we think, and what we decide to do.

If we see ourselves as destined to destroy the world there is no other possible future for us.

If we believe that we belong and are essential here, we cannot help but find how.

As the headwaters of all human action this is the place where the smallest of changes can have the greatest effects.

Macarius and the Pony

By Thomas Merton

People in a village
At the desert’s edge
Had a daughter
Who was changed (they thought)
By magic arts
Into a pony.

At first they berated her
“Why do you have to be a horse?”
She could think of no reply.

So they led her out with a halter
Into the hot waste land
Where there was a saint
Called Macarius
Living in a cell.

“Father” they said
“This young mare here
Is, or was, our daughter.
Enemies, wicked men,
Magicians, have made her
The animal you see.
Now by your prayers to God
Change her back
Into the girl she used to be.”

“My prayers” said Macarius,
“Will change nothing,
For I see no mare.
Why do you call this good child
An animal?”

But he led her into his cell
With her parents:
There he spoke to God
Anointing the girl with oil;
And when they saw with what love

He placed his hand upon her head
They realized, at once.
She was no animal.
She had never changed.
She had been a girl from the beginning.

“Your own eyes
(said Macarius)
Are your enemies.
Your own crooked thoughts
(said the anchorite)
Change people around you
Into birds and animals.
Your own ill-will
(said the clear-eyed one)
Peoples the world with specters.”

— from “Emblems of a Season of Fury”
New Directions, 1963

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