Spanning from 1966 to 1967, Learning to Love finds Merton in his mt active period. Troubled by events at home and abroad, he expresses anger at wars in Vietnam and the Middle East and outrage at racism and injustice in American society. At his intellectual peak, he reads widely and voraciously, carries on an active global correspondence, receives such high profile friends as Joan Baez, Jacques Maritain and Thich Nhat Hanh, and writes insightful essays on topics from Zen Buddhism and Vatican II to the works of Albert Camus all the while penning poignant love poems for M., furtively calling her from the monastary and arranging to meet with her, all the while searching his soul for answers to his crisis of the heart that has "made a mess out of everything."
Inevitably, the affair is discovered, and Merton is forced to acknowledge the consequences of his situation. Bewildered and desperate, he reassesses his need for love and his commitment to celibacy and the monastic vocation and discovers, painfully, that the only possibile solitude is "the solitude of the frail, mortal, limited, distressed, rebellious human person, made of his love and fears, facing his own true present." Revealing Merton to be "very human" in his chronicles of the ectasy and torment of being in love, Learning to Lovecomes full circle as he recommits himself completely and more deeply to his vocation the very "root-fact of my existence" with a new and deeper understanding of the nature of both wordly and spiritual love....Continua