Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Huston Smith,

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Monks as outside of society

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Partial Transcript: I'm going to say a statement that I think is true and if you agree say it back to me with what you know about it.

Segment Synopsis: Smith describes the time when he met Thomas Merton. They had a week together at an interfaith conference in Kolkata (Calcutta) and set next to each other on the plane to New Delhi. Smith says he reveres Merton and spending time with Merton was a joy. Smith quotes part of one of Merton's speeches "I stand before you as a humble representative of the people who do not count."

Keywords: Calcutta; Cross cultural communication; Cultural awareness; Ecumenism; Intercultural communication; Interfaith dialogue; Interpersonal communication; Interpersonal relations; Interreligious dialogue

Subjects: Buddhism.; Christianity.; Church.; India; Kolkata (India); Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; New Delhi (India); Religion.

00:05:48 - The contribution of monks to society

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Partial Transcript: What purpose does a man like that serve in a culture like ours?

Segment Synopsis: Smith says that we are so political that monks can seem like they are running away from societies problems, but that by doing so and renouncing themselves and the world they demonstrate that our present reality isn't everything.

Keywords: Afterlives; Alternative lifestyles; Catholic monks; Lifestyles; Nonconformists; Other worlds; Rebels; Unorthodox people

Subjects: Christian teachers.; Church.; Dissenters; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Outcasts; Radicals; Religion.

00:07:29 - Desert father

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Partial Transcript: Daniel Berrigan called Merton "a desert father," does that seem like a good approximation?

Segment Synopsis: Smith mentions a long afternoon walk with Aldous Huxley in the desert, where Huxley spoke of how the name desert fathers was made.

Keywords: Desert fathers; Diversity; Divinity; Spirituality

Subjects: Berrigan, Daniel; Buddhism.; Christian teachers.; Christianity.; Church.; Deserts; Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963; Los Angeles (Calif.); Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Religion.; San Bernardino Mountains (Calif.)

00:10:07 - Legacy of Merton

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me what you think the legacy of Merton is?

Segment Synopsis: Smith thinks that Merton's legacy is being a very accomplished poet and writer who was open to other traditions. Smith discusses a story about Merton talking about what it was like to be a monk with a sense of humor. Smith mentions the Seven Storey Mountain as part of his legacy, but that the book is not as important as Merton's life itself.

Keywords: Catholic monks; Catholicism; Ecumenism; Interfaith dialogue; Interreligious dialogue; The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton); Trappist monks

Subjects: Authors; Buddhism.; Catholic church; Catholics; Christianity.; Church.; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Poetry; Poets; Religion.; Trappists

00:12:38 - Merton as a possible Prophet

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Partial Transcript: Last question, am I, is it overreaching to call him a prophet of sorts?

Segment Synopsis: Smith says accolades come and go and prophets are in the eye of the beholder. He says that he hasn't really associated that label with Merton. He thinks of him as a holy man who accomplished a lot through his writing and his openness to other religions.

Keywords: Catholicism; Ecumenism; Interfaith dialogue; Interreligious dialogue; Prophecy; Trappist monks

Subjects: Buddhism.; Catholic church; Catholics; Christian teachers.; Christianity.; Church.; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Poetry; Poets; Prophets; Trappists