I must confess that I’ve written probably six blog posts between the last one I published and this one. Yet, I didn’t have the gusto to post them. Somehow they didn’t fit. This post may be short but I just had to divulge my discovery–one that few people will care about. As you can probably tell by my lengthy discussion of him, I love J.D. Salinger. I’ve read all of his work. Franny and Zooey I even read twice; I picked it up for the second time a few months ago when I had a Franny-esque crisis regarding religion. Salinger, through Franny, helped me quite a bit in figuring things out.
In hopes of discerning just what role religion and God and all that jazz were going to play in my life, I picked up a few books by James Martin, S.J.–yes I willingly decided to pick up a book written by a Jesuit and (shockingly) I really enjoyed it. Martin writes the sort of books that I want to write. They are all peppered with anecdotes and sort of resemble memoirs. My favorite of his thus far has been A Jesuit Off-Broadway because it’s real. It doesn’t portray religion as this lofty thing, as something strange and dated, but as something that can enrich one’s life if that’s what she chooses.
In each of his works, Father Martin never fails to mention Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk (who ‘after the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the fourth most responsible person for his own priesthood’). So after myriad mentions, I had to figure out what made this guy so important. I hopped on Google and found that Merton’s most well-known work–and he’s a prolific author–is called The Seven Story Mountain. It’s his autobiography, totaling just short of five-hundred pages. I thought to myself, “There’s no WAY I will ever waste five-hundred pages of my time on this memoir of a monk. Even if Martin likes him so much.”
And yet…yes, I picked it up and am just over a quarter done with it. It’s wild. Subsequent to picking it up, I’ve heard it described as a modern version of St. Augustine’s Confessions which I couldn’t agree with more. People like Augustine, Martin, and Merton do a fantastic job of humanizing religion which, funnily enough, is exactly what J.D. Salinger does in Franny and Zooey, albeit it in a different manner. A lot of the ideas expressed by Salinger about being sick about worldliness, phoniness echo the disgust that Merton describes in his work. Also despite being a Catholic, Merton was drawn to Eastern religions and even wrote a book on Zen Buddhism. All of these facts got me to thinking, “Salinger sure would’ve love Merton”.
Thus, I was back to Googling and boy was I chuffed when my searching came up with this result: an article detailing how Salinger and Merton took a course in the department that Merton taught in at Colombia. While there’s no certainty that they crossed paths, in my romanticism, I believe that they must’ve.
I felt the need to share my happy, accidental discover on my very strange and atypical college journey of discovery with the void that is the internet. I am at the same time entirely different and exactly the same as I was last year when I read Salinger–still reading, still searching for the answers. My friend Hailey says that I’m normal in my need to course to live. However, she thinks I’m looking for answers in all the wrong places. She says that the only true answers are in me. As for what prompted my religion-related path, you’ll have to buy my memoir to get that gem of a story.