A Name as Lonely as the Edge of the Sea

sent by: CLARKE SCOTT |

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Contemplative Life newsletter.

This week has been one of collection and consolidation—in thoughts and deeds, and direction. And I am getting clearer on the direction I wish to proceed here, and while I have not yet settled one-hundred-percent on the idea, the search has been useful.

I also had a week of reading and meditation—a semi-retreat of a sort. But the machine that is modernity demands more from us and the good times lasted but a few days.

But this is something my mind longs for and I could easily see myself at some point in a little cabin somewhere, reading writing, and meditation.


What I’ve Been Thinking

I’ve been thinking about the right way to describe what I am attempting to do here. And what I am interested in more generally and therefore what will be interesting to write about over the long term.

For some time, and as I am writing a book of the same title, I’ve called this newsletter, Meditate or Die. But now I am having second thoughts about this name. For it is a great name for a book, and people in the publishing industry have been interested in talking to me just of the strength of the title alone. I’m starting to feel it might not fit what I wish to write about over the long term.

For one thing, it narrows the scope of the content to meditation, right?

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Moreover, I’ve been concerned the title is off-putting to some people that would in fact love the content if they could get past the name. Yet they don’t because of it.

See, the die in “meditate or die” is strong, I know. But is it too strong? Strong to the point of, scaring people away? Perhaps even harsh in its articulation. Am I wrong in thinking this?

For a book it’s a great title; for a newsletter? It’s not soft and warm and inviting to read. Am I wrong in thinking this way?

I don’t think the book will suffer from the same problem because the book is all about meditation. (I couch it in stories such as this one. Or the time I had curry and rice with the Dalai Lama.

But I have ideas outside of content strictly about meditation. So while my own practice is quite focused and narrow, I do read widely, and the breadth of this reading does inform my practice. And I do have opinions and ideas and thoughts I’d like to share here from the reading I do, so it makes sense that the name reflects this, right?

For instance, I have thoughts on the numinous life—the emotional and mystical aspects of life. In fact, I thought about using “the luminous life” for the name of the Substack. But then the problem there is that many people will not know what this means. Numinous? What? Thanks but no thanks…Finding words to capture what I’d like to do here is an ongoing search.

This conundrum got me thinking about something I read recently…don’t be a writer; be writing.

I liked this very much. It cuts away at the overthinking. That is not to say that titles and names are not important. They are. But when we get stuck in the strategies, nothing gets done.

I’m still lost. I’m still searching.

What I’ve Been Reading

As you will have noticed, in recent times I have been spending some time reading outside of my own tradition.

I think this is important, at least for me, as it gives me a wider context for my own practice. And it helps me understand the uniqueness of my own tradition too.

I first read, Thomas Merton’s autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain while I was staying at Nalanda Monastery in France more than 20 years ago. I was there for a solitary retreat and during the breaks I would read a little for relaxation.

Merton was a genuine seeker and spent time learning Buddhist meditation as a means of deepening his own practice. This is an openness a deeply admire and believe I share. But he was also an incredible writer. His way of imagery struck me the first time I read his book. But last night as I was preparing to write for the newsletter, I came across a sentence that vividly and beautifully articulates a feeling I’ve long had.

Then came the long, long journey through the sand dunes, stopping at every station, while I sat, weary and entranced, with the taste of chocolate thick and stale in my mouth, thinking over and over in my mind the name of the places where we were going: Sandwich, Falmouth, Truro, Provincetown. The name Truro especially fascinated me, I could not get it out of my mind: Truro, Truro. It was a name as lonely as the edge of the sea.

It was a name as lonely as the edge of the sea. What a beautiful sentence. This put words to a feeling I have had yet not fully grasped and being Australian, I’ve spent a lot of time at the edge of the sea.

I believe you know when you are reading a special writer when they can articulate something inside you that you knew was there but only upon reading was aware it was even inside you.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of reading anything by Merton, do yourself a favor and grab this book as it is a classic and spiritual literature and a dam good read to boot!

Until next week.

Take care,

Clarke Scott

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