This archived article was written by: Joshua H. Behn
Of late it seems that things are in a flux: the longtime democratic seat of Ted Kennedy was taken by R-Scott Brown; the first ever known photograph of Phineas Gage (the textbook case of brain trauma personality disorders) has been found; and global warming seems to now be debated as global cooling.
Where on Earth has the dependable world gone to, the world that I have come to experience with affection and a touch of annoyance? Has my unshakable faith in the predictability of human nature actually been rocked?
The great majority of us tend to go through life on a linear path, in a reality where events operate just as we are taught they should. While it may not be a smooth course, it is somewhat predictable. We have a natural cycle that we follow.
Take children for instance. Like the sphinx’s great riddle, they grow to adulthood and fall into feebleness. Up and onward through grade, middle and high schools then college. We are born, reared, weaned, married, birth, teach, let go, and finally embraced by death.
And yet, there are still “the times that try men’s souls,” as Thomas Paine wisely quipped. These periods are of uncertainty and calamity where we question our foundations. Times where our course in life becomes stalled and is irrevocably changed.
A wife being told that she will never be able to have children. A daughter whose family has perished in a devastating earthquake. A father who finds himself facing the throes of drug addiction following a painful surgery. Or an all star athlete son who is now paralyzed from a car accident.
We each face a different set of circumstances tailor made to us, a unique journey with no clear path. They may come only a few times in a lifetime, yet have such a strong impact that they literally reshape our destinies.
Author Professor R. Glendon Brunk writes of these moments as being deontic, a term which I find especially delightful and meaningful. It means “God Awakening.” Like Eves and Adams, becoming as God through enlightenment.
It is a process though, something that cannot be facilitated through mere acquisition of knowledge. A person can be taught the book work in any ivy-league university and still not get it. It is with the opening of the inner eye that a person begins to embrace and apply what he has learned. A person must be at the point where they are able to take that knowledge and put it to action.
These times will come, whether we like it or not, and when they do we should expect the accompanying feelings of darkness and despair. It is a badge of honor, the true rite of passage ceremonies that our society sneers at, but desperately needs. To question the established order isn’t bad at all, and shows just how much we have grown. For those who are going through that test of self … keep on and trudge forward through the trench of life.
The Countess Marjorie Chardin (“Maude” of Harold and Maude fame) said that the wisest advice she had been given were the immortal biblical words “This too shall pass.” With all the fervency of my soul, I agree, words that have always rung true, no matter how dire seeming the challenge or the urgency of the questioning of my place in the world.