Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Life, Death and Love

I found an old manuscript for a book that I wrote during the late 80's. I remembered writing it, but the computer I wrote it on long since died and I thought it was all in there. I was cleaning my bookshelves and found a tattered manila folder and in it was a sheaf of yellowed, wrinkled and hand-edited papers: my manuscript for "Life, Death and Love: The Heart of Sorrows". It was a time of spiritual desperation that I still vividly recall, but for the most part no longer exist in. By God's mercy, I only now visit the shadows of spiritual desperation, not live in the dark abyss continually. I may post it entirely here, I may do excerpts... I don't know. Much of what is in it is intensely autobiographical and personal, as perhaps a book on spiritual despair must be since it cannot be written about adequately from an academic viewpoint. Anyway, here is the introduction. Perhaps more to come....

LIFE, DEATH AND LOVE: The Heart of Sorrows
A Journey Through Spiritual Despair


This is a book about sorrow. It is not about crisis, of some extraordinary evil or desperate station in life dealt you by fate or choice or Satan or God. It is of a kind of life, a life of mourning, of a spiritual melancholy, of perpetual sorrows of a depth and intensity that can only come from believing in God, or longing to believe in God in the face of the chaotic ambiguities and havoc of life.

This book is for the ones who find the experience of spiritual joy elusive. It is for you who feel guilty because you fake the happy Christian life to be accepted by a group who, deep inside, you believe are for the most part faking it too. It is for those who find more reasons to question God, to rail at Him, to argue with Him than to praise Him. It is for those who have a deep and hurting hollow place within them that no sermon, no prayer, no scripture verse, no spiritual exercise has ever touched with healing. It is for those who struggle silently with a sense of abandonment and loneliness in the midst of friends and lovers. It is for those who are exhausted by desperation and waiting for God. It is for those who sometimes feel they can wait on Him no longer and consider death a treasure to be sought more than life. It is for you who have considered suicide because death held out to you an enchanting promise that no logic or philosophy could dissuade you from believing.

I do not come to you like Job's friends with the mirrors and smoke of religion to magically turn the reality of these struggles into a shared illusion of joy. I will not try to tell you a step-by-step plan on how to overcome the sorrows because I do not know one. But neither do I seek one because I am not yet sure that they need to be overcome, or that they can be, or even that they should be. As fearful and as dark as the sorrows come, if they come from God it would serve us well to dwell in them, seek their wisdom and learn their ways: Their ways would lead us to God Himself, the Healer of the broken hearted. So all I will tell you is what I have experienced of God, His presence and absence, about humanness and hopelessness and fear and forsakenness, about faith, about love and hope in these, my sorrows.

I do not presume to think that in my struggles I have asked God any new questions, observed some new manifestation of God's ambiguous presence and appalling and embarrassing absences, or cursed God more articulately for any of it. I make no pretense to have suffered any more angst over the futility of existence or fallen any more deeply into despair at injustice, decay, and finitude than anyone else who walks this world with clear and open eyes. I seek only to cast the Light upon the experience, the One True Light that does not seek to trick the eye and hide the wrinkles and spots, but reveals the realities in all their harsh and glorious truths.

Of what value is this if I cannot give you answers, you ask. If nothing else, you will know you are not alone in your sorrows, nor lost while walking in this way, nor are you unspiritual or lacking faith. I write so you will know, even if you are raging at God in the shadows of death, you are indeed longing after and deep within the heart of God, that you are not opposed to Him and cast off by Him. You will know that yours is the common experience of the prophets, the apostles, and of all true lovers and friends of God.

I give you this, Life, Death and Love, each with its peculiar sorrows. They are each an odd road sign that points into the abyss, the unmapped caverns of spiritual despair. They lead us there because, if we will risk the journey, it is there in the darkness that we will find God silently waiting.

I have decided to move the rest of the manuscript to another blog that will be dedicated solely to this book. If the topic of spiritual despair and dealing with the absence of God, the experience of suicidal thoughts and love and romance as signposts to God, then go to my other blog, Life Death and Love and the entire manuscript will be posted there... eventually......


Anonymous said...

This sounds amazing S-P. Go ahead and get this published so I can read the whole thing.

LHAVEM said...

Yes, Please!

Mimi said...

S-P - it sounds great!

Meg said...

I know at least one person who could benefit from this. Hope you are able to get it published.

Philippa said...

You know S-P, it wasn't until I learned about Orthodoxy that I learned that our sorrows can lead us to God and are not punishment by Him for our sins. That was a revelation. I no longer needed to fake my way through worship, faking my way with a smile on my face and clapping hands. I could feel sorrow. Beg God's mercy. And not be mad at Him because He was punishing me. But go into His presence and cry because He loved me.

Your story is my story. Thank you for the glimpse.

olympiada said...

Steven, That sounds like the title of my blog: A Lifetime's Death in Love. Have you read The Dry Salvages by Eliot? At any rate a couple of things jumped out at me:
"It is for those who have a deep and hurting hollow place within them that no sermon, no prayer, no scripture verse, no spiritual exercise has ever touched with healing."
For me scripture verse is getting to those hurting places. As has been pointed out by my biblical studies group and my friends, I have not read the bible in its entirety. So in accordance with my divorce care mail, I attempt to read a different book of the bible each day. Today its Romans. I have attempted to read it many times...And it does reach that hurting place.
"They are each an odd road sign that points into the abyss, the unmapped caverns of spiritual despair."
It is interesting you mention the abyss. I had a dream earlier this year where I was trying not to fall into the abyss. The abyss can be God's mystery as explained in The Struggle with God by Paul Evdokimov. Or the abyss can be the chasm of KhazaDoun where Gandalf was pulled down by the Balarog into the abyss of hell...The abyss is a word with many meanings. How do you intend it here?

matt said...

Wow, what powerful honest words.

It is difficult for me to make a comment now, in a way, because those words are so expressive they need time to sink in.

I did feel my heart resonate with much of it.

I am in a difficult place spiritually. Drawn to the truth of Orthodoxy, but feeling like I am completely abandoning everything from my past and current life including my family (who is not yet where I am) in the process. While I am understanding the truth's of Orthodox faith as laid down by Christ's apostles, I am a combination of excitment and joy, but also profound sadness. I just want to follow, love and worship my God in the purest, most powerful way. The right way, to have a relationship that is genuine and not distilled by humans trying to correct a wrong, by altering it to fit their way.

PLEASE either write the book or publish more here.

jessenicholas said...

Thanks Dad. Get it published. But be wary of the internet. I'm not sure how copyrights and stuff work. But I'd hate to see your stuff get stolen.

s-p said...

Hi All,
The book is written, it has been complete for almost 14 years. It was "pre-Orthodox", but not "pre-Christian", I don't know that that makes any difference, really. The experience of spiritual despair is written about in all Christian traditions. I'm considering just posting it up here chapter by chapter as it stands. I ran it by a couple publishers years ago and got no interest at all. Too dark...too risky because it deals with suicidal thoughts and other pretty intense stuff. You really have to be in a pretty specific spiritual place to "get" all of it. I don't think it is uncommon, but definitely not light reading. I may write an epilogue to it since I've come a long way in 14 years. But I'll cross that road when I get there.

I'd love it if a publisher picked it up, but I'm not holding my breath. I don't think it would sell like hotcakes since it would be a slim market. I know how much I made on my last book...I won't quit my day job even if this got published.

The abyss is undefined, Oly, except as I defined it in the intro: It is where you meet God.
As far as copyright goes, I'm pretty sure blog posts are copyright protected since they are original work by the author and are dated, etc.

Anyway... in my spare time, I'll post it up chapter by chapter here, I guess. Stay tuned.

s-p said...

A couple more thoughts...
Scripture does indeed speak to the entirety of our human experience, unfortunately we are not always told the Truth by those who teach us. It is sometimes comforting to just know that the scriptures acknowledge our state of mind and spirit.
Spiritual despair is in many ways a matter of degrees. I think we all go through desperate times that are circumsantially or situationally driven. This book doesn't specifically deal with that as much as a more "existential" despair.... but I'll let it speak for itself. The reader will glean what is relevant for him/herself I'm sure.

olympiada said...

s-p I wouldn't be so sure about the copyright laws. I would investigate the blogger help if I were you. BTW is your son Orthodox?

s-p said...

Hi Oly,
I'll double check the copyright issues, but I guess I'm not sold on the idea that the book is marketable anyway, so if someone "steals" my material it would be a non-profit venture for two of us. :)
Yes, my son is Orthodox. He converted with our family 8 years ago. Good kid. I'm proud of him.