Both were well-known Westerners associated with Eastern spiritual traditions, both died accidentally in their rooms in Bangkok. That, it appears from news reports, is where the similarity ends, sadly:
BANGKOK, June 5 — Thai police officers investigating the death of David Carradine, the American actor who made his name in the “Kung Fu” television series in the 1970s, say he most likely died of asphyxiation, possibly when an autoerotic sex game went wrong.
Merton died in Bangkok on December 10, 1968 after touching a poorly grounded electric fan while stepping out of his bath.
The appeal of the East is, in fact, a fascinating mix of sexual and spiritual allures–of indulgence of the flesh and a transcendence of the the material world.
Think of Graham Greene’s love of opium dens and prostitutes, all the while crafting brilliantly Catholic novels. Or the giddy fixation on the Kama Sutra or geisha life and the equally popular infatuation with the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. From sensuality to Shangri-La. Maybe the appeal is that they are not as distant in Eastern culture as they are in the West? But Westerners rarely seem able to be able to manage the integration, if that’s what the aim should be.
Or maybe East and West do not meet? Then again, I suppose a similar confluence/dichotomy in violence and spirituality could be noted, as in the martial arts that Carradine became famous for.