Sometimes reading is such a scary circular thing, a long time ago I read a fiction book called The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington. Actually given to me by a colleague who thought I would enjoy it. How did she know? Anyway I really enjoyed the book, spiritually, romantically and just a good read. A disheartened graphic artist meets and eventually falls for a monk who has left his monastery and maybe his faith behind.
I didn’t even realize I had picked up another book by him, this time on the subject of depression and the dark night of the soul, called A Hell of Mercy,
until I began to read a review and it mentioned A Monk Downstairs.
I wonder when he writes, in this new book, about the bad novels he wrote if he’s talking about the novel I found very good.
Hell of Mercy is an interesting consideration of depression and the “dark night of the soul”. Farrington has been able to give his spirituality many test spins and live a life of creative endeavors that many of us forging lives of “quiet desperation” and holding jobs with insurance and caring for families with 9-5 incomes, could not experience. But he does recognize that you don’t have to follow a particular spiritual path to experience a true dark night.
“Raising a challenged child, or caring for a failing parent for years on end, is at least as purgative as donning robes and shaving one’s head; to endure a mediocre work situation for the sake of the paycheck that sustains a family demands at least as much in the way of daily surrender as years of pristine silence in a monastery.”
So the dark night comes to each of us in a variety of forms, the recognition of surrender is the complexity that brings us to a wholeness of faith. I find this book comforting in the negation of the belief that ”if we are good, bad things will not happen; if we are good enough, our suffering will end”, recognizing this as a false comfort. Bad things happen, and really bad things happen to really good people. At the same time I’m not entirely sure he makes the connection with depression and the “dark night”. He suffered with depression his whole life but the horrific reality of his mother’s death took him to a completely different reality. His despair over her death and pain it caused generated a true suffering within himself. I don’t think this essay convincingly linked his lifetime depression with his grief over his mother and his “dark night”.
Anyway, whether I totally agree with his premise in this book or not, perhaps I’ll happen on him again. I obviously enjoy his ideas and discourse.