Thomas Merton is much beloved by many, reflecting the evolution of his thought, precocious for American readers, to be sure. What is unique about his writings is the combination of a contemporary and informed critique of society combined with an undisguised defense of not only monasticism but also solitude and eremitism. This is one part of the “contradictory” nature of Merton — the more benign part. The other part is the extrovert thriving on writing, talking, planning, “engaging,” and yet the solitary, a contradiction observed by his own fellow monks as well as outside observers. (Entry revised May 12).