Of 'Epiphanies' and 'Ah-ha! Moments'

by scrosby on March 14, 2008

At the corner of Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali in downtown Louisville, you might see a bustle of activity on a typical weekday afternoon: cars buzzing by, people walking to meetings or lunch, etc. But March 18th, 1958, Thomas Merton saw much more than that. At the corner of Fourth Street and what was then Walnut Street, Merton experienced what he called an epiphany. Dr. Paul Pearson, the Director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University, says that epiphany can be summed up in four words: people aren’t inherently bad. The writings and art of Thomas Merton in the following years would extrapolate on that simple realization that Pearson says changed everything about the way Merton viewed the world and everyone in it. It’s been 50 years since that epiphany, and next week a celebration will mark the transformation of the famed Trappist monk at the Muhammad Ali Center.

You can hear my interview with Dr. Pearson in this week’s Studio 619.  We’ll talk about Merton’s beliefs and how he illustrated those thoughts through writing and art. Another part of the Muhammad Ali Center event is a panel discussion featuring Louisvillians who have had their own personal epiphanies (Dr. Pearson calls them ‘ah-ha! moments’).

So now I’m wondering – have you had an ‘ah-ha! moment’? One of those realizations that changes the course of your life? Maybe it’s switching career paths, looking at a relationship in a completely new way or coming to terms with a lifelong struggle… you can share your epiphanies and ‘ah-ha! moments’ with us by leaving a comment.

Studio 619 airs Sunday morning at ten on WFPL.

State of Affairs also talked about epiphanies this week… you can learn more here.

Comments Closed


Kevin P. Brown March 16, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Ms. Sanders, I believe Dr. Pearson has done you a disservice in defining “epiphany” so succinctly, and I fear you have taken his literal four words as the substance of the definition. Indeed, those four words “people aren’t inherently bad” are part of what I believe was Merton’s epiphany, but you’ve taken them for the essence. Epiphany surely goes deeper. Epiphany is about revelation, like a sudden moment of enlightenment in Zen, when suddenly disparate and disjointed parts of our experience are seen in deep connection, and there’s a feeling of realization of a deep truth. I suspect that what Merton saw, felt, sensed, indeed realized, was how humanity is all intimately connected. The truth of the brotherhood abd sisterhood of humankind, with the deeper connection of all being children of the Creator, and the epiphany is beyond just the words and the intellectual sense of it, manifesting in a felt sense. Epiphanies like that are often life-changing events. I’ll have to read some of Br. Merton’s journal to see where it fits in his life.

I would wish for you your own epiphany, but that’s a matter for you and your G-d. I’m not sure the culture is all that friendly to ephiphany, as the experience tends to challenge the social order. In any cae, may your life go well.

Kevin P. Brown

Kevin P. Brown March 16, 2008 at 8:33 pm

As I review what I wrote, I see that you asked for people to share their own epiphany. I didn’t do that. I recall a statement from one of the wisdom traditions to the effect that “those who speak don’t know, and those that know don’t speak.” Let me just say, simply, that 39 years ago, my experience led me to the perception that we’re all the same person. I’m sorry if that sounds schizophrenic, but that was my epiphany. It led to my dropping out of college. And reading lots of books, And ultimately going back to school. And trying, in fits and starts, to live in accordance with my truth. Amen, amin, so mote it be.

Glenn Stoutt, MD March 18, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Superb. I have thought about epiphany for the past two days.

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