The Hunger of Darkness, the Courage of Light

building bridgesYesterday I wrote about daring and true courage, about living with abandon and living with purpose. I mentioned that the greatest courage sometimes goes hand in hand with what appears to be the smallest decision. And it reminded me of what I read just the other day in The Hungering Dark, by Frederick Buechner. About silence and hiding, truth and speaking, concealing and revealing. About building bridges and having the courage to cross them. If you have a chance, read his book … any of his books. Here’s a teaser, the portion I read the other day that reminded me of courage. And love.

We sit in silence with one another, each of us more or less reluctant to speak, for fear that if he does, he may sound like a fool. And beneath that there is of course the deeper fear, which is really a fear of the self rather than of the other, that maybe the truth of it is that indeed he is a fool. The fear that the self that he reveals by speaking may be a self that the others will reject just as in a way he has himself rejected it.

So either we do not speak, or we speak not to reveal who we are but to conceal who we are, because words can be used either way of course. Instead of showing ourselves as we truly are, we show ourselves as we believe others want us to be. We wear masks, and with practice we do it better and better, and they serve us well—except that it gets very lonely inside the mask, because inside the mask that each of us wears there is a person who both longs to be known and fears to be known. In this sense every man is an island separated from every other man by fathoms of distrust and duplicity. Part of what it means to be is to be you and not me, between us the sea that we can never entirely cross even when we would. …

The paradox is that part of what binds us closest together as human beings and makes it true that no man is an island is the knowledge that in another way every man is an island.

Because to know this is to know that not only deep in you is there a self that longs above all to be known and accepted, but that there is also such a self in me, in everyone else the world over.

So when we meet as strangers, when even friends look like strangers, it is good to remember that we need each
other greatly you and I , more than much of the time we dare to imagine, more than most of the time we dare to admit. Island calls to island across the silence, and once, in trust, the real words come, a bridge is built and love is done —not sentimental, emotional love, but love that is pontifex, bridge-builder. Love that speaks the holy and healing word which is: God be with you, stranger who are no stranger. I wish you well. The islands become an archipelago, a continent, become a kingdom whose name is the Kingdom of God. – Frederick Buechner “The Hungering Dark”

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