A number of years ago, I read and wrote a review of a book about the author’s relationship with Mr. Rogers called I’m Proud of You. The two men only met briefly, but that kindled a long though distant friendship. One thing that I noted from the book was how this book, The Seven Storey Mountain, was a very important book to Mr. Rogers, so I added it to my wish list to read. The book about Thomas Merton’s spiritual life started anything but spiritual.
“seems strange that Father and Mother, who were concerned almost to the point of scrupulosity about keeping the minds of their sons uncontaminated by error and mediocrity and ugliness and sham, had not bothered to give us any formal religious training. The only explanation I have is the guess that Mother must have had strong views on the subject. Possibly she considered any organized religion below the standard of intellectual perfection she demanded of any child of hers.”
The world was a different place back when the author was growing up, but he had a very unusual upbringing. He grew up moving around Europe and America, a lot of the time without his immediate family. He lost his mother at a rather young age and seemed to be required to be mature long before most of us. The level of detail in which he describes his life was both interesting and tedious at times for me…and sad. When he found faith, he was all in and determined to lead his life with faith.
“Then one day Father gave me a note to read. I was very surprised. It was for me personally, and it was in my mother’s handwriting. I don’t think she had ever written to me before—there had never been any occasion for it. Then I understood what was happening, although, as I remember, the language of the letter was confusing to me. Nevertheless, one thing was quite evident. My mother was informing me, by mail, that she was about to die, and would never see me again. I took the note out under the maple tree in the back yard, and worked over it, until I had made it all out, and had gathered what it really meant. And a tremendous weight of sadness and depression settled on me. It was not the grief of a child, with pangs of sorrow and many tears. It had something of the heavy perplexity and gloom of adult grief, and was therefore all the more of a burden because it was, to that extent, unnatural. I suppose one reason for this was that I had more or less had to arrive at the truth by induction. Prayer? No, prayer did not even occur to me”
I thought the first part of the book really read like a novel and moved along. Perhaps it was how fast his young life moved. Once he found faith, I found the level of detail too much for me and found myself skipping ahead.