Category Archives: Letters

Spirit of Consolation (Part 3)

My friend!  It is so good to see you!

But wait — can you really be standing here before me now?  Are you not rather a phantom, or some figment of my fevered imagination?  It hardly seems possible that at such a time as this, at so dark an hour, you should appear thus unexpected and unannounced.

But come — sit down by the fire, and let me look at your face — no sight is more pleasant to my eyes.

There now — but friend, your short years lie heavy on you — you are thin and pale, and I dare say you’ve been ill lately.  Don’t trouble yourself; let me get you some ale and something to eat.

Why don’t you speak?  What troubles you?  Have you nothing to say after all this time?  But I see your eyes are downcast and sad, and perhaps there are yet no words for what is on your mind.  This I understand —  tomorrow, maybe, you will find them and let me share in your burden.

But there has been so much time lost between us, and I am unwilling that we should pass the evening in silence.  Therefore, if you cannot now lend me your voice, at least lend me your ears, and I will do likewise in turn.

I suspect the hours will be too few for all we have to speak of, and it is hard to make a beginning at one place rather than another.  Nevertheless, there is one matter which, lying as it does at the forefront of my thought, I must divulge to you before the night is out.

When last I wrote to you, I spoke of some things, in very general words, which lay heavy on my soul.  As you have ever been my confidante, there is no need to explain in detail what they signify.  You know everything to which they pertain.  In particular, I spoke of a hope I had, one with which you are very familiar, and you will be wanting to know the outcome of my attempt to take hold of it…

But I am afraid, my friend, that I have no heartening words for you.  Indeed, I have no heartening words for either of us.  I told you in my letter that fear had taken hold of me, that I had no way to fathom the depths that lay below me should I fall.  Well, as things have fallen out, my fears proved well-founded.  I would even venture to say, that had I not been prepared for it I should never have arisen for quite some time.  As it stands, I am but creeping on broken wing, and the future is more uncertain than ever.

I never imagined how much I had to lose, and even now I think I have yet to feel the full force of my fall.  In the beginning, my senses were deadened by the impact.  But the ensuing day was hard, and a blindness took me so that I could scarcely see to place one foot before the other.  Since then, I have passed through the darkness many times over, and each time it seemed new.  But there have also been moments of unexpected peace — a peace such as my anxious heart had long forgotten, and one which I have never known in joy.

And yet, the strength I’ve taken from these moments has barely sufficed to sustain me.  Sometimes I feel imbued with a small breath of life, and last week I was privileged to attend a gathering of friends, some very old and dear.  But no sooner was I in their company than I felt a great abyss enclose me, and in the midst of so many I was more alone than ever.

Now, it might be said by some that many memories of my past are painful ones.  But in reality, they hold no bitterness for me, and I never dwell on them.  I suppose it is true that the margins of my heart on which they are written have died.  But it is also true that the corners around them have grown stronger, more than enough to make up for it, and I would not choose to alter such Providence.

However, this afternoon while I sat with my eyes fixed ahead, I was suddenly siezed by an overwhelming sense of untellable loss.  The few pleasant recollections of my youth came flooding back, and it seemed to me that my entire world had passed away.  It was then I realized, that the hope I had lost was the last that remained of my childhood.

Perhaps I was only twelve when I first felt it, though I don’t remember exactly.  The prevailing mood of my life at that point was confusion of purpose, and all the anxieties that accompany such confusion.  This was not to be resolved until several years later, but even then there were occasional rays of light.  This particular ray was not one that ever influenced my actions, and as I grew older I gradually left it behind.  Still, once in a while I would think of it, though in general I was otherwise engaged.

Be that as it may, sometime over the last year or two, it began to take shape and grow again.  I brushed it aside at first, but at the bottom of my soul I knew I must eventually confront myself.  And so I did — and then, slowly, foolishly, I allowed it to wrap itself around my heart, bit by bit, until at last I could not cast it off even had I so desired.

And so, here I stand, choking in its fingers.  Perhaps I should have known better from the beginning, but I have never outgrown my propensity for choosing unattainable goals.  There may come a time when I am obliged to tear yet another page from my heart, but for now I must simply close it.  As always, there are other matters to attend, and without over-reaching my grasp I may yet find something of value.

And now I fear I must beg your pardon, for I see your plate is empty, and I have gone on over-long.  You’ve been patient as ever — isn’t there something else I can get for you?

But what’s this — I can see the firelight dance in your eyes, and you smile at me.  Surely you can’t be amused by my tale?  But no, you are not so unfeeling as that…

Is there something you know that I don’t?

 

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Hope without Hope (Part 2)

Dear Friend,

I hope you’ll allow me to express my regret at not being able to meet with you as anticipated.  In truth, the loss of your company was no slight grievance, and to miss this chance is bitter indeed.  But I was detained, and barring some great providence I don’t expect another opportunity for quite some time.

And so again I find myself writing to you.  This time I hope not to be so vague, and perhaps reveal something more of the turmoil of my spirit.  I had desired to speak with you in person, but as it stands that is not to be.  You have always been so patient.  To no other could I speak frankly as with yourself, and for that I am in your debt.  Let’s not allow absence to dull the iron of our countenance.

More than 7 years have passed since I was last at peace with myself.  Prior to that point, I cannot recall a single tranquil instance.  In other words, it was to me a unique experience, and one to which I can now only aspire in vain.  But I imagine I am not alone in this, and I suspect many who think themselves at peace do so falsely.

I had only recently passed through what, to my adolescent mind, must have been the most harrowing ordeal, wholly despaired of the outcome.  But much to my surprise, though I thought myself broken, I was not long to remain under the hoof of dejection, and instead began to discern in my suffering the footfall of an inexorable destiny.

But I digress.  At about this time I left home for a brief period and was graciously received by some distant friends.  In their company I found respite, and after several days, beyond all hope, my spirit was reconciled.  I did not worry about what was now behind me, nor did I take thought for what lay ahead: I was dispassionate, content in the instant.  If anything could be said to have disturbed my peace, it was merely the knowledge that I did not belong.  Indeed, I knew that the world in which I was taking part was not mine, and that soon, very soon, I would have to leave it.

And so I returned home.  At first, I pursued my goals with renewed vigour.  But the tasks set before me were not of my own choosing, and as time wore on, I floundered.  Most of the work was unsuited to my character and intellect, and began to seem juvenile and directionless.  This happened at a time in my life when the right direction was what I needed most.  But it was nowhere to be found; and so I began on my long, winding path to the knowledge no one had offered to teach, of the very existence of which I was still ignorant.

Over the next several years I gained little, and being preoccupied with the exigencies of present and future subsistence, succumbed in some degree to the false homeostasis of our double-minded society.  As yet I had barely an inkling of what was to come.

Now, friend, I can scarcely explain what’s happened over the past 2 years.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I’ve learned, and the impact of these discoveries has been devastating.  Every turn reveals a greater evil, and even as I rise to strike against it, I find my hands and feet already bound.  Here and now, wickedness has become our uncontested master, and we no longer know how to fight it.

But we’ve already spoken of this dilemma, and it is not my intention to retread old ground.  On the contrary, the last few days have brought with them something of a new concern.  Though I’ve been aware of the process for some time, I have only now been struck by the extent to which I’ve let fall my guard.  For long I’ve struggled daily with many difficult questions, but now I have also to contend with fear.  Yes my friend, I am afraid.  I am afraid because I hope, and not for some merely intangible thing.  I am afraid that this hope might fail, and I am afraid that I might lack the strength to endure such failure.

I feel myself exposed on three sides, my back to the wall on a narrow precipice, the ledge crumbling beneath my feet.  Below it is dark and I cannot tell how deep.  Across the chasm there is a green vine on the cliff-face, perhaps just close enough to reach.  If I leap now there is a good chance I will fall.  On the other hand, if I wait til the rock collapse under me, I will assuredly collapse along with it…

Though it may put off the inevitable, not to have made the attempt would be an unbearable regret — bid me godspeed!

Your Friend,

Lost in Madness (Part 1)

Dear Friend,

It’s been some time since we’ve seen each other. And in some time, perhaps we’ll meet again. But in the meanwhile, I decided to take this opportunity and write you a letter. I hope it finds you well and in good spirits. Even more importantly, I hope it finds you still human.

In truth, I don’t really know what to write, now that I’ve taken up the pen. I feel I hardly know you anymore and don’t want to risk offence. The decisive moment has passed, however, and as such I must continue.

I hope, dear friend, that you are possessed of no small degree of patience. For I must confess, that in what I am about to relate, there is a certain maddening ambiguity. Indeed, it may even seem to you, — but I know you are more charitable — that the author of such a letter has only a tenuous hold of his senses. But, in any case, before you hasten to make such judgement, let me assure you that my mind is quite intact, and that but for these trying times, I should never have had any doubt in the matter.

But you’ll see for yourself soon enough. It’s not as if there were any use keeping silent on the matter. You may think me mad now, but that’s of no importance in comparison — for if I were to seal it up longer, and God knows it’s been long enough already — if I were to hold my peace and never speak, I am afraid I really should be mad before much longer. But you see there is my goal — it is simply too much for one mind to bear, and my hope is this: that at last by writing this letter, and transmitting to you as much as possible an accurate account of myself, the weight of it all might become distributed more tolerably. For is it not the case, dear friend, that all human experience, were it bound within the confines of a single mind alone, should soon break even the sturdiest soul among us? Thus what is common to all gives the illusion of sanity, but a lunatic is always alone.

Were it possible I would end my isolation and simply write myself into your mind. But my speech is inadequate, and the flood of thought would simply overflow its banks. Nevertheless I must write, for though I fail in the attempt, I may yet avoid the abysmal alternative of complete and utter silence.

Things haven’t really been the same here since you left, so many years ago. All those ambitions of our youth, that tenacious optimism we shared: these haven’t fared so well in your absence. Back then, I saw the world so much differently than I do now, and I have to wonder if it wasn’t entirely due to your influence. Be that as it may, I can only console myself with the faint comfort of inevitability; that the fault is not entirely in myself, and that little of value would result had I remained as I was then.

By far one of the most difficult things is the realization that the world really is the way I’ve come to see it, and though I’ve tried my utmost to step around those traps so cunningly concealed, I nevertheless find myself hopelessly bound up in them. The movement of the great mass of our race possesses the force of a tidal wave, and to swim against this current is suicide. Yet to go with the flow or to attempt to ride the crest, would that death be any less certain when we break ourselves on the great shores of our sin? There is little moral comfort to be had when the greatest good is only a so-called lesser evil, and I am in no way convinced that the evil I’ve chosen is the least of them.

Even worse, these considerations are an endless sap to my courage, so that I feel inadequate to take hold of that tangible good which even now I might still choose.

Nevertheless, though I may feel despondent, I am encouraged to know I still possess hope. For what else but hope could prevent me so long from busying myself with worthless diverisons? Had I really given up, you would not now be receiving this letter. I may not know exactly where I’m going, but the wheels are set in motion, and I have hope that before long my direction might become clear to me.

There is so much more that needs to be said. But for the time being it will wait. Certain details must remain confidential, and there’s no telling who may be reading this. Nevertheless, in a little over one month, perhaps two, we may once again know the joy of one another’s company. I only wish I were more certain of the time. You’ll find the address of my current residence on the reverse, if you wish to reach me before then. I’m sure we’ll have much to discuss. Until such time,

Godspeed,

Your Friend