When I decided I wanted to make an album telling a seeker's journey, the story of Thomas Merton in song, I knew I must work in direct lineage, and with someone who heard Merton at the heart level. So, it made sense to work again, with my friend and teacher James Finley. We had already made the album Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path, which distills in simplified segments, the great work James Finley has done in imagining how spirituality and the contemplative path can compliment depth psychology.
James Finley is one of the great "wounded healers" of our time having survived trauma himself.
I wanted to share this song because I have been needing it myself.
I am in process - probably approaching midlife crisis.
I know I'm going to die eventually.
The word "fleeting" is beginning to enter into my mind and although I remember writing the following lines in my early 20's, I am beginning to witness it before my very eyes...
Like a honeymoon
A premature "Ecclesiastes moment" on my part. Trust a 4 on the enneagram to long to bring the whimsical days with her young children back, before said children are even conceived!
Nostalgia drives us to a kind of purgatory in the flesh. And that is one of the many reasons why "the moment" is so useful and so meaningful. It is also why being able to exhale... and to trust in the Big Picture... is so useful.
Many of us grew up being told that God loved us, but the rest of the picture didn't match up. It was not a benevolent universe, nor was God a benevolent, loving God.
History has been riddled with strategizing Christian kings and bishops, who found hell very useful. But not just hell... a castigating, shaming God was possibly even more helpful.
Somewhere in there, many Christians and deconstructionists are still deeply afraid to meet God. Or simply, afraid to die.
All this separation from God. All this isolation from God. All this disconnectedness and rugged individualism. "Every man for himself."
This week's Daily Meditation sequence from the Center for Action and Contemplation was so well done and was like vitamin D to this sun-craving, winter-cloaked, ice-dweller. I love where I live, but winter can be long! I recommend sitting with this summary of the week.
The song To Disappear into God is exegeted so beautifully by James Finley that I want to share the text of his spoken word. These lines from Merton can be interpreted by a more literal ear, as escapism or "annihilation". What if they're actually the opposite?
Here is James Finley's spoken word text:
As intimacy deepens between two people, it can deepen to a point at which they mutually
disappear as dualistically other than each other, neither one can find a place where one stops
and the other begins and they’re not inclined to try. So that point of zero variance, that point of
the overcoming of otherness is a point of solitude because there’s no observer there to take
notes on it.
In a way Merton is talking about this trans-subjective communion in which we and God, we and others, we and the earth, start disappearing, and otherness is overcome.
This is why when people die, they don’t go anywhere. When we die, we disappear. We don’t
see the dead for the same reason we don’t see God. There’s no more otherness, between
themselves and this infinity. And since they don't go anywhere, we’re all right here!
Thomas Merton once wrote, “Where do candles go when they go out? If the question fills me
with an alien chill, it gives witness to my heart that I have not begun to understand the
I pray away the alien chills that try to inhibit our trust and vulnerability.
May we risk being loved. May we risk loving big.
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.