Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reflections on Meaning

This Monday my work was featured on Therese Borchard's wonderful blog Beyond Blue. I had a feeling Therese would respond to my book. But one of the things that makes writing endlessly interesting is that you never know what a reader will connect with most. In her Mindful Monday post, she quoted from the end of the book. Here's a bit:

"Before medication my life's project was to understand my pain. I was ill and in my illness made the mistake of treating my symptoms as metaphors. I tried to ascribe meaning to them. And I understand the impulse behind that quest. Pain that is part of a coherent story is tolerable. Pain without meaning is unbearable. But this proved a dangerous exercise. The pain had no meaning beyond the brute fact of it."

My initial reaction was, wait -- how could this have any resonance for someone without knowing all that I went through: the illusions I clung to; the signs I ignored; the clinicians who colluded with me in denying my depression? But then I read it again and saw the universality of the predicament. When someone holds out the possibility that your suffering has meaning, it's hard not to grab at it. Letting go of the belief that there was an order to my anguish was one of the hardest things I ever did, and one of the most liberating. Several people have bought the book after seeing Therese's excerpt. I'm glad she gave me the chance to reach those readers.

Since few characters embody inner torment like King Lear, I thought I'd offer up this close-up of my son as Lear in the throes of Shakespearean agony -- a kind of grand finale of his many years at Hiland Hall School.Can the kid act, or what?

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