Every once in a while it is good to take inventory of such folk in our life and see how that list might change or stay the same over time. I recall doing this a few years ago it seems, so it’s about time to revisit that effort as I begin 2020. The list is not in any order, just random.
To begin with there are the obvious: Thomas Merton and Abhishiktananda.
Then, much less obvious: Thoreau and Muir and Edward Abbey
Continuing: Dostoyevsky (especially his Father Zosima)
The Desert Fathers (collectively, though some more than others)
Lao Tzu and the most incredible of all, the poet, fool and lay hermit Hanshan
I think I have pared my list down to these names as I have reassessed their impact on my life’s journey and my spirituality. It is important to point out that no claim is being made that these figures are “perfect,” beyond criticism, or “have it all figured out.” Far from it!! Now it is also important to acknowledge that I have enjoyed and benefited and marveled at the insights of countless other figures who may in fact be “deeper” people than some on my list. Who could not learn from St. Antony, St. Seraphim, St. Francis, Julian of Norwich, etc.? And how about all those other great Chinese figures like Hui Neng, the seminal figure of Zen Buddhism and Lin Chi, otherwise known as Rinzai in Japanese? And then of course there are these incredible Japanese zen figures like Hakuin, Dogen and Ryokan. And who could not have been inspired and learned much from such as Santideva and Milarepa and Ramana Maharshi? All these and so many more have influenced me greatly and profoundly, but the others are the “special favorites” for this person.
And to start off 2020, here is a “blessing” for your journey from one of my favorites, Edward Abbey:
“May your trails be dim, lonesome, stony, narrow, winding and only slightly uphill. May the wind bring rain for the slickrock potholes fourteen miles on the other side of yonder blue ridge. May God’s dog serenade your campfire, may the rattlesnake and the screech owl amuse your reverie, may the Great Sun dazzle your eyes by day and the Great Bear watch over you by night.”