Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence
Film Review by Kam Williams
Poignant Portrait Pays Tribute to Modest Trappist Monk
Father Thomas Keating is a very influential theologian despite the fact that his is not as much of a household name as some of his contemporaries like the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra. That’s because the 91 year-old cleric got a late start after having spent the bulk of his life under the radar as a Trappist Monk withdrawn from the world and operating under a vow of silence.
How exactly did he land on that Spartan path? Well, as a sickly 5 year-old, Thomas had promised God to enter the priesthood if he were allowed to survive a life-threatening childhood disease. So, upon completing his studies at Yale University, he kept his word by joining an ascetic order located in rural Rhode Island.
However, he would resign in 1981 and start talking again in order to be able to share his unique brand of Eastern-influenced Catholicism with the masses. He subsequently moved to an abbey in Colorado where he founded the Contemplative Outreach program.
Over the intervening years he also wrote 30+ books about his meditative approach to spirituality. His Earth-friendly philosophy basically suggests that “The more we know about nature, the more we know about God.” In that regard, it reminded this critic of a passage from Shakespeare’s As You Like It which reads “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
Co-directed by Peter Jones and Elena Mannes, Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence is an endearing biopic whose only flaw is a slight tendency at times towards hero worship. For, although the endearing documentary’s humble subject obviously has little interest in such glorification, the filmmakers can’t help but gush, cinematically, in the process of placing him atop a virtual pedestal he probably wants no part of.
The picture is at its best during relatively-introspective interviews conducted with Thomas which intermittently arrive between glowing accolades from colleagues and distracting reminders that, as an Ivy League grad, he could’ve written his own ticket had he gone the conventional materialistic route.
But it was apparently hard for the directors to leave well enough alone and just let Thomas speak for himself. A poignant portrait of a transcendent figure for the ages with a simple message that ”Forgiveness is at the very center of Christianity.”
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 75 minutes
Distributor: Temple Rock
To see a trailer for Thomas Keating, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2MrMDpwchA