Parker Palmer is a writer that blesses me. He shares honestly about his life and faith. In his book, "Let Your Life Speak" he shares his deep and profound struggle with depression. His depression disconnected him from himself, his feelings, his faith, his friends. He felt isolated.

He writes about some of the things that didn't help. One was when someone would say, "I know exactly how you feel. . . ." He said that he didn't hear anything beyond that because he knew that the person was peddling falsehood.  No one can know the mystery of the depth of another person. This desire to over-identify with another just made him feel more isolated.

Then Parker says, "One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person’s pain without trying to ‘fix’ it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person’s mystery and misery."

How true it is. "Simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person's mystery and misery." The deeper in pain a person goes, the more mystery they discover. They can share that mystery only in fragments. We who stand with them can only glimpse the misery, the mystery. We can only receive those glimpses as gifts.

Maybe the best we can do for each other is to stay close and respect the borders between ourselves and them, thus honoring their unique and mysterious experience of life. It may not sound like much, but respecting another person in their misery might be the most important gift they can receive.


Converging experiences provoke unsolicited thoughts. Deborah and I watched the space movie "Gravity" the other night.  In the midst of exploding space ships and storms of space garbage, Sandra Bullock traveled perilously through space trying to survive. The eerie silence of the sound track provoked thoughts of vast emptiness.

This past weeks scientists reported discoveries through telescopes at the South Pole that they now believe can prove what happened less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. They described the rapid inflation of the creation instantly after the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago.

Here I am reeling from the impossible task trying to comprehend this expansive space and the eternal sense of time and I went to a church this morning and sang hymns and heard a sermon about God. And I sat there aware of how incredibly inadequate the human mind is and even less competent is human language when it comes to speaking about the vast mystery of reality. I once read somewhere that words are terrible miners and even more terrible astronauts when it comes to trying to describe the unspeakable mystery of creation (and I would add, the creator).

And yet, we have  no choice. It is a part of the human character to be conscious of ourselves in relation to the fullness of creation. And it is our blessing and curse to need to understand in some small way our relationship to all that is around us. To be human is to be a meaning maker.  We have a compulsion to make sense of life. That is what drives science and religion. As inadequate as we are with words, we have to keep trying.

So, I sat in church today and gave thanks for those who have the courage to try to help us understand. I felt grateful for those who dared to guide us in getting just a glimpse of possible understanding. To form a word and cast it into the vast silence of time and space is such a foolish and courageous act that I was in appreciative awe. 

Funny how convergence of experience messes with the mind.