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The most beautiful passage about rain I have ever read, by Thomas Merton

"Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By 'they' I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.

The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and its porch with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.

I came up here from the monastery last night, sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the place where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, a night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!

Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen."

by Thomas Merton, "Rain and the Rhinoceros," Raids on the Unspeakable, 1960


I picked up a copy of Thomas Merton's Raids on the Unspeakable the other night in downtown Santa Cruz. I know my mom's favorite quote is one of his, but I'd never read his books. I was scanning the shelves in the philosophy section and began looking through titles. This volume was slim and old, and I have always been good at judging good books by their interesting covers. I began reading this passage, the first part of the first chapter of the book, and instantly felt like I was meant to have picked up the little book. When I got home and continued reading it, I found more and more reasons to love it. He talks about Thoreau later in the chapter, one of my favorite writers, and I never realized how much I would enjoy the writings of this man whose name has floated around my house in conjunction with the following quote:

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”

I found the passage about rain fitting, since it's been raining all morning here in the foggy Santa Cruz mountains. Oh man--I almost just wrote that it's nice and that it is useful because it keeps us students indoors studying... but then I realized that this is the kind of thinking that Merton warns against. The rain is the rain is the rain. Don't let it be sold and commodified into having use-values. It is water and it is wet and it is lovely in its own right. 

Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts from Merton. They were as refreshing as... rain.


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