"Love and solitude are the one ground of true maturity and freedom. Solitude that is just solitude and nothing else (i.e. excludes everything else but solitude) is worthless. True solitude embraces everything, for it is the fullness of love that rejects nothing and no one, is open to All in All," writes Thomas Merton in this paperback edited by Christine M. Bochen. While in the hospital for back surgery, the Trappist monk and writer met and fell in love with M., a student nurse. Their clandestine affair turned Merton's life upside down and challenged him to take a hard look at his vows of celibacy and his vocation. These journal pages reflect the inner turmoil, anguish, and ecstasy of this intimate relationship. "I realize that the deepest capacities for human love in me have never been tapped, that I too can love with an awful completeness." When the affair ends, Merton returns to his cell with a new perception of himself.

Learning to Love also contains vintage Merton observations on Albert Camus as "a Buddhist existentialist," John Muir as a monk, Joan Baez as "a kind of bride of silence," and Franz Kafka's The Castle and William Faulkner's The Bear as two literary works of profundity. As editor Christine M. Bochen notes in the introduction to this volume, these journals reveal Merton's poetic eye and mystic spirit.