My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

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That is to say, whatever faith you emerge with at the end of your life is going to be not simply affected by that life but intimately dependent upon it, for faith in God is, in the deepest sense, faith in life—which means, of course, that even the staunchest life of faith is a life of great change.

Book review –My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer - The Presbyterian Outlook

It follows that if you believe at 50 what you believed at 15, then you have not lived—or have denied the reality of your life. To admit that there may be some psychological need informing your return to religion does not preclude or diminish the spiritual imperative any more than acknowledging the chemical reactions of romantic attraction lessens the mystery of enduring human love.


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Faith cannot save you from the claims of reason, except insofar as it preserves and protects that wonderful, terrible time when reason, if only for a moment, lost its claim on you. This is to be admired? That we carry our despair stoically into death, that even the utmost anguish of our lives not change us? How astonishing it is, the fierceness with which we cling to beliefs that have made us miserable, or beliefs that prove to be so obviously inadequate when extreme suffering—or extreme joy—come.

But the tension here is not simply between belief and disbelief. A Christian who has lived with a steady but essentially shallow form of faith may find himself called to suffer the full human truth of God—which is the absence of God—may find himself finally confronted with the absolute emptiness of the cross. God calls to us at every moment, and God is life, this life.

Radical change remains a possibility within us right up until our last breath. The greatest tragedy of human existence is not to live in time, in both senses of that phrase. Christians love to point to anecdotes like that of Nietzsche, idolater of pure power, going insane at the end of his life because he saw a horse being unmercifully beaten; or Wallace Stevens, the great modern poet of unbelief, converting to Catholicism on his deathbed.

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

There is not a trace of resignation or defeat in Camus. Indeed, there is something in the stalwart, stubbornly humane nature of his metaphysical nihilism that constitutes a metaphysical belief. IF GOD IS A SALVE applied to unbearable psychic wounds, or a dream figure conjured out of memory and mortal terror, or an escape from a life that has become either too appalling or too banal to bear, then I have to admit: it is not working for me.

What I do know is that the turn toward God has not lessened my anxieties, and I find myself continually falling back into wounds, wishes, terrors I thought I had risen beyond.

Be certain that your expressions of regret about your inability to rest in God do not have a tinge of self-satisfaction, even self-exaltation to them, that your complaints about your anxieties are not merely a manifestation of your dependence on them. There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have become useful to us, whether as explanations for a life that never quite finds its true force or direction, or as fuel for ambition, or as a kind of reflexive secular religion that, paradoxically, unites us with others in a shared sense of complete isolation: you feel at home in the world only by never feeling at home in the world.

Sometimes it truly is a strength: Giacometti, Beckett, Camus, Kafka.

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Yet it is a deep truth of being human—and, I would argue, an earnest of the immortal Spirit who is forever tugging us toward him—that even our most imaginative discoveries are doomed to become mere stances and attitudes. In this sense, art does advance over time, though usually this advance involves a recovery of elements and ideas we thought we had left behind for good.

This is true not only for those who follow in the wake of great accomplishments, but also for those who themselves made those accomplishments. Citing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mr. Yet, like dew, his own faith rests as he awakes some days full of promise.

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Alienation permeates many of these short chapters. They may stay calm or they may turn edgy. Language, lies, his calling as a poet, frustration, and death as our inevitable sentence: all crowd these pages with a serious look at faith. After tenderly commending the love and support given by his daughters and his wife, Mr.

Recommended for readers who prefer poetry and criticism to platitudes or self-help texts, this memoir suits an audience able to balance intelligent insight with open-minded possibility, as a talented poet challenges his own and our verities. John L. The book offers a modern poet's perspectives on Christianity and death. It is often confusing, but many of the topics involved are inherently difficult to think about.

The author offers a very Christian Wiman.

Poetry in the Round: Christian Wiman and Peter Hawkins
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