Was Christopher Hitchens Religious?

Less than a year before his death, I interviewed Christopher Hitchens for Portland Monthly magazine. I didn’t want to do the interview. As I told editor Randy Gragg, “I don’t like Christopher Hitchens. He is rude. He is a bully. So why should I help get his work before more people?” But Randy prevailed upon me. After all, Hitchens would be giving a lecture — about God, of course — in my hometown of Portland soon, and people would be passionately interested. I agreed to do the interview, and I’m so glad I did.

I knew that my job in approaching the interview was to not get hooked by Hitchens’ jabs at Christianity, or at me, for that matter. I had my list of questions all ready to go. During the interview, I had the feeling that I was encountering a “bad boy,” a playful persona honed to perfection, one that he was totally conscious of and used brilliantly for PR purposes. I also sensed underneath the persona a deeply wounded, angry child. I don’t know where that anger came from, but it was a given from which he moved, and then used his brilliant intellect to focus, parse and dissect. No one could encounter that extraordinary mind without marveling. That day Hitchens simply spoke in whole paragraphs of perfectly constructed concepts, consistently, for more than an hour.

After his lecture on Jan. 5, a small group of us were invited to have dinner with Hitchens. There were several of us clergy present, including Marcus Borg, the internationally known Jesus scholar; plus Andrew Proctor, the head of Portland Arts and Lectures; Emily Harris, local radio personality; and of course Randy Gragg. Hitchens was known for his ability to drink great quantities of alcohol and never lose his sharp edge, a capacity in full flower that evening. He downed one glass of red wine after the next, hardly pausing except to ramble on, and managed to insult, in particular, the clergy. An African-American minister mentioned how much gospel music meant to him, and in response Hitchens quoted Percy Bysshe Shelley, and then told the minister that the words of Shelley were much more meaningful than “that gospel stuff.” Marcus Borg attempted to speak of his devotional life, but Hitchens would have none of it. Borg left the dinner early, with a kind but oblique remark to Hitchens: “Whatever you are doing, you do it quite well.”

I tried to encourage Hitchens to pause from time to time and listen to what others around the table were saying, but I was largely unsuccessful, as you might imagine: He charged on ahead, totally dominating the conversation. I was one of the last ones to leave the dinner, and found myself on the sidewalk in the dark night, still talking with Christopher, who still held a glass of red wine in his hand. Unaccountably, I felt a clean, clear sense of affection for him. I know in my own life the anger that is always there, waiting to be tapped. I know that this rage has its uses, to counter ignorance and injustice, and I know it sometimes bullies and hurts.

The interview itself revealed a surprisingly religious Christopher Hitchens. He ended up using words like numinous and transcendent and soul. He said, “I can write and I can talk, and sometimes when I’m doing either of these things, I realize that I’ve written a sentence or uttered a thought that I didn’t absolutely know I had in me until I saw it on the page or heard myself say it. There is a sense that it wasn’t all done by my hand.” A bit later he added, “Everybody has had the experience at some point when they feel that there’s more to life than just matter.” At the end of the interview, I told Hitchens, “I would love to have you in my church because you’re so eloquent, and, I believe some of your impulses — excuse me for saying so — are religious in the way I am religious.” And Hitchens responded, “I’m touched that you say, as others have that I’ve missed my vocation. But I would not be able to be this way if I were wearing robes or claiming authority that was other than human. That’s a distinction that matters to me very much.”

Hitchens did not miss his vocation. He has done more than most anyone to focus popular attention on the egregious dimensions of religion. He just wanted the world, and all its people, to be pure. Unfortunately, we are not. Hence, the impulse for religion.

Read the printed interview, or hear the entire audio interview: Questions of Faith

Singing the Blues

My sister Donna and I recently took a self-guided blues tour of the Mississippi Delta. It was an extraordinary experience. I grew up in the South, but it never visited the Delta, the emotional heart of the blues. The area runs from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. This is the rich land which former slaves worked as tenant farmers. The area has a history of slavery, followed by Jim Crow and the Klu Klux Klan. It was and still is characterized by illiteracy, poverty, and steaming hot weather. It is also noted for some of the most authentic and moving music being made anywhere in our country today. Most people will recognize some of the names associated with the area, such as BB King, and Muddy Waters. If you know about the history of the blues, you will have heard of Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, and Son House, early blues musicians, all from the Delta, and now long gone, but still influencing American music.

We started our tour in Ocean Springs, where my sister lives, and worked our way north. We had only five days, so we missed a lot, and never made it to Memphis, but what we saw and heard touched me and changed me. Greenville and the Walnut Street Blues Club was our first stop, where the legendary John Horton band was playing. The music was loud and the cigarette smoke was heavy. Everybody was drinking Bud Light. We ordered a couple ourselves and settled tentatively into a back table, wondering if we could really handle all the smoke, but the music soon drew us in. When the band took a break, Horton asked if others in the house would like to make music, and two black men, a guitarist and a singer with amazing talent took the stage. We were hooked. Our tour had begun.

From Greenville we went north to Cleveland and then onto Clarksdale, where we visited Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club. Clarksdale has enjoyed something of a renaissance, I am told, since Freeman started club there, and citizens from the area have opened storefront businesses nearby. But for someone like me, who had never been there, Clarksdale looked like a war zone, with vacant lots everywhere and boarded-up businesses. We were not excited about the group at Ground Zero, so my sister and I visited Red’s, which is a real juke joint, with absolutely no commercial flavor. We had trouble finding the place, which was across some railroad tracks, unlit on the outside, and looked as if it were boarded up. Finally we saw the one word RED’S in red paint on the door, so we ventured in. Red himself was behind the bar, and silently waved me off when I offered plastic for a beer. Watermelon Slim was playing, and he was the real deal. He played with his guitar on his lap, and made it yearn and sing with a pick and a miniature whiskey bottle. He also had a half pint of whiskey nearby, which he tippled from time to time.

Other highlights of the trip were a visit to the BB King Museum in Indianola, which turned out to be first rate, and also the Highway 61 Blues Museum in Leland, where we were treated to a spontaneous concert by Pat Thomas, son of the better-known and influential Robert Thomas, musician and folk artist, now long gone. The museum is small and inconspicuous, but has pictures and artifacts of famous musicians from the area; a very knowledgeable young man on-site gave us information not only about the history of blues, but also information about lesser-known sites such as the grave of Charley Patton in nearby Holly Ridge. Our last day was spent at the eighth annual Mississippi Delta Regional Blues Challenge, held at the Blue Biscuit in Indianola. A 17-year-old named Reed Smith won second place, and Sean “Bad” Apple and Martin “Big Boy” Grant took first place.

What struck me about our trip to the Delta was the amazing music that came out of this poverty-stricken area. People sang about desire and betrayal and loss, always loss. The music is raw, and it is real. So much in our lives these days is the opposite – is phony or stripped of true emotional content. This music of the Delta is from the heart, with nothing held back. It reached a place in me where few other art forms are able to go. I think that maybe its power comes from the universality of the feelings expressed. No matter what station in life we hold, all human beings long and all human beings lose. Maybe it’s just that the hard lives of these people in this hardscrabble place enables them to express in a truer form what we all experience.

The other interesting thing is that these clubs and juke joints we visited are the most racially integrated places I have ever been. And we’re talking here about Mississippi, a state in a part of the country so widely reviled for its racism. I experienced black and white musicians playing together, and black and white patrons gathered together listening to the music. Perhaps it is the music and its acknowledgment of the common human experience that has drawn the races together here in Mississippi.

I know I have been changed in some subtle way by my trip to the Delta. The music touched some deep place in me that wants to be authentic, is tired of the superficiality of most of American culture. Why is it that we must go to the margins of our society to find what is real? Perhaps it is only at the margins where people have so little to lose that they are free of pretense, unwilling to play the games which draw the rest of us in too much of the time. My trip reminded me that when I hold myself away from those who struggle just to get through the day, I am the one who loses the most.

Churches Prefer Charity to Justice

When I was a young adult in New Orleans, I attended a prestigious church which fronted on elegant St. Charles Avenue. One Sunday there was a call from the pulpit for used shoes to be donated to the forgotten souls in the parish prison, one of the worst prisons in Louisiana, and I suppose in the United States. I remember being appalled. After church I went to the minister and asked, “This is a large, powerful church. Why don’t we demand that the authorities clothe the prisoners properly?” The minister looked at me and said, “All I know is that some prisoners need some shoes.” I never forgot that moment.

Churches almost always prefer charity to justice. Let’s take, for example, the question of hunger. Churches find it easier to open a soup kitchen, rather than lobby politicians or put pressure on government to feed hungry people or help them get jobs. I must confess at this point that I, too, give money to charity. But just this morning as I once again wrote a check to the food bank, I note that every year there are more hungry people in my state of Oregon. Last year 240,000 people used the food bank, compared to 200,000 the previous year. What’s wrong with this picture? To effect change, churches must move beyond charity to justice, changing the economic and political systems that keep people impoverished.

I don’t wish to say that all charitable giving is wrong. Certainly, if we have more than we need, we should give some of the excess away. And there is a sound argument for hands-on work by churches, for the act of serving soup to impoverished people gives middle-class people some sense of what the less fortunate are facing in their everyday lives. These experiences may very well motivate individuals to advocate for policy change. So yes, write the check, serve the soup, but don’t stop there.

The problem with charity, including charitable deeds done by churches, is that it allows people to believe that a given social problem is being addressed, when actually there is only a Band-Aid being put on the wound. It allows donors to feel good because they think that they have “made a difference.” Actually, charity may do more for the donors than for the institutions they purport to serve. The problems that people face in a country like ours, in which there is such a wide disparity of wealth, cannot be addressed comprehensively by charities, no matter how many people of good will donate or volunteer. Charities act unilaterally and piecemeal, and they tend to serve the sexy causes (i.e., anything to do with children), rather than those less emotionally compelling (e.g., homeless mentally ill men).

When I became a parish minister, I began to understand why almost universally churches will avoid political action in favor of charitable deeds. For one thing, churches are populated mostly by middle-class people, who are relatively comfortable. And ministers of these institutions value stability more than mission. We professional leaders are reluctant to do anything that would cause conflict or controversy in our churches, fearing an institutional split — or at the very least, a reduction of gifts to the church.

Some church people wrongly believe that churches will lose their tax-exempt status if they take a stand on political matters. But the tax code is clear: churches and ministers may speak out at will on any issue, so long as they do not engage in partisan politics — that is, advocate for one candidate over another.

Other people believe that politics is worldly and not therefore suitable for an institution given to spiritual endeavors. Realistically, however, we must understand that politics determines everything from assuring that we have clean drinking water to deciding when we go to war. And politics determines how the abundant resources of this country are shared — or not shared. These issues, which are decided in the political arena, have moral dimensions which churches can hardly ignore, if we are to be taken seriously as a religious people.

Church is not just a place where good friends gather to support one another; it is not a place where people go to save their own souls, and ignore the very real pain of their neighbors; it is not a place to maintain nice, middle-class values. The Holy Spirit is not on the side of stability. Jesus did not say, “I have come that you might be comfortable.” He said, “I have come that you may have life.” Church is a place to take the demands of justice seriously, and to trouble the waters, when necessary. Will there be controversy? Maybe so. But there will be integrity, there will be mission, there will be life.

Forgiveness and the Law of Love

It is an unfortunate truth that happiness and good fortune rarely deepen us spiritually. It is when we run into unbearable grief and loss we are unprepared for that we are stripped of our vanity and our pride and begin to see, rock-bottom, what is really important to us. These occasions are what I call “leveling experiences” because they let us know that we, along with all human beings, are mortal and vulnerable. At these times so much of our anger and hard-heartedness seems petty, for we come to understand that all human beings suffer immeasurably as they journey through life, and we join them as fellow sufferers on the path. We gain a measure of humility, we become more compassionate and more forgiving.

Profound spiritual lessons can come from those who provoke us the most. People we can hardly bear to be around, the ones who “hook” us emotionally, are the ones who carry our unconscious stuff around, bringing it uncomfortably close to the surface. We want to run, not walk, in the other direction. But we find we are looking in a mirror of sorts. We are led to ask ourselves, “What part of my shadow is this person asking me to uncover and examine?” These individuals are the ones who can stretch us the most, spiritually speaking.

We also grow in our ability to forgive as we reflect upon the circumstances of our own lives. We realize that even our best-intentioned, most spirit-led decisions have the capacity to hurt others, including those we love. We have made mistakes, misjudgments, careless errors, perhaps, that have led to pain for others or even tragic consequences. In fact, there is no way for even the best intentioned, most moral individual to go through a life without hurting others. So each of us has to live with the consequences of our own inevitable harming of others, even when we would do only good — never mind when we have been motivated by less than noble motives. This understanding helps us forgive those who have, for whatever reason, known or unknown, caused us to suffer. We, too, have caused others to suffer. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” as my saintly grandmother used to remind me regularly.

My father has been dead for almost 20 years now, but I remember having a conversation with him when I was a young adult. It was an awkward conversation. We somehow got around to talking about my growing-up days, and my father asked at one point, “I was a pretty good dad, wasn’t I? I gave you whatever you needed didn’t I?” My memory was different from that. I remembered that money was scarce, that my father threw it away on alcohol and gambling.

“Well, actually, no, you didn’t … you weren’t … actually, our childhood was pretty difficult, Daddy.” My father’s face hardened in pain, and he said, “When you get older, you’ll see. You’ll see, when you have children of your own.” And he was right. Yes, he hurt me grievously through his drinking, the same drinking that came between him and my mother, but I came to see that his alcoholism was not about me. It was about his emotional suffering from way back in his childhood and about his losing our mother, the only woman he ever loved, and about the addictive disease that alcohol is.

Another person’s behavior is really not about us. Most of the time, the harm another does comes out of ignorance, pain, neediness and confusion — the very same qualities that push us to act in ways we really don’t want to act.

I did, in fact, find out what he meant by “I would see, when I had children of my own.” He hurt his children, though he loved us. And though I loved them, I hurt my own children when I divorced their father. I can rationalize and say that they would have been worse off had I stayed with him, but I don’t know that that’s true. I know that I would have been worse off, and I was not willing to live half a life, with possibilities cut off. Will my children forgive me? I hope they will. We all cause pain, and we all need forgiveness.

We need to be careful of piety — that is, the dutiful obedience that is so often tinged with self-righteousness and pride. One of the most fascinating stories in the Hebrew Bible is the story of the Prodigal Son. You may remember the story: a wealthy landowner has two sons, the older one, who follows his father’s every wish, and the younger one, who is something of a hell-raiser. So the younger son tells his father, “Give me my inheritance.” (Read: “I don’t want to wait until you kick off. I want to party on, now!)

So the father does as his son asks. The son goes into a far land and spends all his inheritance in profligate living, and when he runs out of money, he runs out of friends. He finds himself caring for the animals on a pig farm, and he realizes, “Why, even these pigs have better food than I have! I should go back home and tell my father that I really screwed up, and that I’m sorry.” And that he does.

When his father sees him coming in the distance, he says to his servants, “Kill the fatted calf! Invite my son’s friends over for a party!” The son approaches his father, falls to the ground and begs for forgiveness, and the father puts a ring on his finger and rejoices, for that which was lost has been found.

Now, the really interesting part to the story to me is the reaction of the older brother. He says to his father, “Father, you never killed a calf for me, never even killed a goat, for me and my friends. So how come he disobeyed you, left home, wasted all your money and now he gets all the goodies? I’ve obeyed you all these years, and I get nothing.”

Which brother would you like to have for a friend? Which one would you like to go out for an evening with? Sometimes we have to make mistakes — and big ones — before we learn a better way. But we are apt to grow richer and deeper, as we experience the bumps and bruises. Sometimes we bump and bruise others, as well. But how much more desirable this path, than the way of this prig of an older brother, who holds himself back from life and experience, and who judges himself worthy and his younger brother unworthy. Why could he not be happy at his brother’s return? His piety had stolen his joy, his ability to rejoice in his brother’s redemption. He is the big loser in the story.

The problem with piety — and self-righteousness, in general — is that it separates us from others. In the safe and secure citadel of our own goodness, we place ourselves out of human reach. The law is what directs us, then, and mercy takes a back seat. We become blind to our own failings, so intent are we on judging others, and in fact on projecting our own flaws onto them. A person can follow all the rules and yet be lacking in the milk of human kindness. In fact, when people are too rule-driven, that is what generally results.

The one law that is large enough to contain all the lesser laws, the one law that must be considered the grounding of the life well lived, is the law of love. If that law is grossly violated, it really doesn’t matter how much money we make or how many accolades we receive. If we are able to live by this larger law, we will find within ourselves a kind and understanding heart, both for ourselves and for others. Forgiveness will come more easily because we know how morally frail we ourselves are, because we ourselves have blundered and because we know that the story is not over, that redemption is possible.

It is comforting to me to remember that my very weaknesses form the tension that pulls me again and again to the Holy One, asking that my brokenness be made whole. Paradoxically, it is often when I feel most satisfied with myself that I find myself losing faith — or becoming, as it were, faithless. Self-congratulatory, I say to myself, “I’m doing great … wasn’t I?” Humility makes space for the Holy in our lives, whereas self-righteousness and judgment alienate others and elbow God out, as well.

It seems to me that forgiveness is all of a piece: When we are unable to forgive, we then perpetuate the fruits of non-forgiveness — anger, hatred, revenge, pettiness of character. And the fruits of forgiveness — humility, compassion, love, peace — are lost to us. The place to begin is not self-condemnation, but the sincere desire to begin anew. If we earnestly seek to forgive, if we seek a change of heart, we will at some point have what we seek, for the nature of God is love, is forgiveness. We ourselves are forgiven even before we think to ask. We don’t have to earn it. We just have to be willing to receive. As we ourselves are forgiven, we can through that same fount of grace forgive the injuries done to us.

What Does ‘God’ Mean?

When did you give up God? Or did you?

I started doubting at an early age. My problem is that I never seemed able to access this God of love and mercy that the minister talked about. In the pain of my childhood and adolescence, my prayers seemed to go no higher than the ceiling. When your momma leaves and your daddy drinks and your guts are spilling out in anguish, what good is a God who says, “Look, I just work here”? I mean, what good is a God if you can’t see Him, hear Him — if you can’t converse, for heaven’s sake? Maybe there isn’t a God at all, I concluded.

I’ve been a minister myself for over 25 years now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up wondering about God. In fact, I confess that when I use the word God, I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. And yet, paradoxically, I’ve staked everything there — with this Mystery that I cannot comprehend with my finite mind.

The part yearns for the whole. The incomplete, for the complete. The self, for that which is beyond the self. In all cultures and in all times, this yearning is felt. We give names to the unnamable. We say the Tao, we say Atman, we say Jehovah, we say King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we say the Goddess, we say Beloved, we say She Who Is, we say the Ground of Our Being, we say Father, we say One Whose Name I Cannot Know, we say Holy One, we say Higher Power, we say the Divine, we say the Infinite, we say Ein Sof, we say Oversoul, we say Allah, we say Yahweh, we say Gaia. “As a deer pants for brooks of water, so my self longs for You, O God,” says the Hebrew scripture. We thirst, we are desperate for that which gives life.

At the same time that our spirit yearns, we are in a world in which truth is known through the senses, through observation and experimentation, through logic. We will not accept what we cannot see. “Show me,” we doubting Thomases say. “Let me place my hand in the wound. Then I’ll believe.” And rightly so. Haven’t we spent the last 400 years ridding ourselves of superstitious nonsense? No more hanging of witches, thank you very much.

But what about the yearning? It’s still there. It’s not answered by science alone. And so we reach out beyond what we can know — and wonder if our reaching makes any difference at all, if the Great Mystery gives a flip about us, personally. About the pain and injustice in the world. About the future of this despoiled planet.

We cry out, in our most vulnerable moments. The child is very ill. Or the lover has deserted us for our best friend. Or the diagnosis is pending. “If I ever needed you, God, I need you now. If you exist, please answer. I’m on the other end of the line. I’m listening, God, for once in my life I’m really listening.” But our pleading gives way to silence. We get nothing. Nada, nada, nada. So we may just decide there is no God. There can be no proof of God’s existence, we say. True enough.

It’s painful when we become existentially aware that God really is dead, as Nietzsche told us back in the 19th century. A man before his time, Nietzsche died on the cusp of the 20th century, and now we know the power of his prophecy. The disappearance of an all-powerful divine presence, The One That Is In Charge, has left us empty and anxious. Having outgrown the God of our childhoods — the Santa Claus God, the Good Parent God — some of us never find a deity more in keeping with our adult experience — or as far as that goes, the contemporary experience.

Paul Tillich, one of the greatest theological minds of this century, used to be challenged by doubters from time to time. When someone would say, “I don’t believe in God,” Tillich would typically respond, “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in.” As the individual spelled out his problems with the Old Man in the Sky, Tillich would simply say, “Well, I don’t believe in that God, either.”

So what do we do, then, with this void? How do we address our longing?

Perhaps the mystics can help us. Their message has been essentially the same, in all times and in all faith traditions. They are anathema to church hierarchy, for they are the heretics to theological certainty. They say that words and beliefs are mere idolatry, that we have to enter into the presence of the Holy. They say that prophets are flashes of light that point to the Source of all light. They say it is good to not know, to just sit with the emptiness. It is good to be innocent, to be a beginner, for the Holy One is beyond words. And where is the Holy? Everywhere and nowhere. “The world is shot through with the grandeur of God,” says poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Listen to voices from various traditions. The Buddha said, “There is an unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed; therefore, escape is possible from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed.” From the Indian scripture, the Upanishads: “There is a light that shines beyond all things on earth, beyond us all, beyond the highest, beyond the very highest heaven. This is the Light that shines in our heart.” From the ancient Jewish scripture, the Kabbalah: “The essence of divinity is found in every single thing — nothing but it exists. Since It causes everything to be, no thing can live by anything else. It enlivens them.” From the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart: “God’s nothingness fills the entire world; His something though is nowhere.”

How can we then relate to this God, then, that is nothing less than What Is? We can’t set up a statue and think that statue is God. We can’t find a person — whether it is Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or whatever — and say that person is God. We can’t find a holy book or a piece of music or a mountain and say that is God. We are the finite speaking of the infinite, and so we cannot name the Nameless.

Those who insist on remaining in the literal dimension must either cling unquestioningly to the Father God of our ancestors or simply reject God entirely. God has stepped out of personhood, and is not on “our side” in war or football games, and will not save us if we trash the planet. That God is stone dead, a dusty relic.

But that doesn’t mean that the numinous dimension has disappeared from existence. When I accepted my first call to ministry, a dear friend sent me a small bronze plaque, which remains prominently in my study: Vocatus atque non, vocatus deus aderit. “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” We don’t have to invoke the presence of God, we don’t have to wonder where God is. God just IS.

What we can do is to be fully present in each moment of our living, receptive to the Light, which hints of the fire that permeates and animates all that exists. I find this Light in strange and wonderful places — in ordinary and extraordinary days of my living. I find it in the taste of cornbread, fresh from the oven and layered with sweet butter. I find it in the faces of children, who have not as yet learned to hide their delight or their pain. I find it when I get up just before dawn on Sunday morning and walk out on the front porch and look upon the morning light just beginning to creep through the branches of the two huge trees that stand there blessing and guarding me. And yes, I have found it also in the terrifying roar of a hurricane. I have found it in the voices of the dying, who are apt to say, “I’m all right with this.” “The world is shot through with the grandeur of God.”

This is not to say prayer is to be foregone, because it is in our heart’s opening that we become known even to ourselves, and then sometimes a path is revealed, a path to unity with others and with God. Scripture may be helpful. Poetry. Meditation. My spiritual director is a nun, a brilliant academic who speaks six languages, and she tells me she “prays without ceasing.” She is in constant communion with her God. On the other hand, I have never felt any comforting presence during prayer. We are variously gifted, or not, spiritually speaking, so each of us must find our own way. There are many windows in the Divine house, many sources for light to shine through. In my experience, it’s the letting go that is the critical part.

Let me clarify. The spiritual life is not about belief or unbelief — it’s all about letting go of ego. It doesn’t matter whether we count beads or sit in meditation or pray or do none of these. It’s about taking self out of center and putting something bigger than self in the center. It’s about relinquishment. It’s understanding that our highest calling is simply to be a conduit of the Holy, in whatever incarnation is right for the moment.

Who is God? What is God? I don’t know, I just work here. In my own spiritual life, I have been so lost I couldn’t imagine ever being found. I have found myself in the darkest of nights. I have been pushed into stillness and into emptiness. I have known what it means to let go even of God. That’s when the encounter begins, out of the void, when I become raw and naked, innocent enough to receive. That’s when I stumble uncertainly into right paths. There is a Light beyond all things.