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The Spiral Staircase

I used to joke with my sister and some of my friends that I might open the world's first Baptist convent. That is easy to say when you are bemoaning your lack of dates as a sixteen year-old. Now, I do not know that I could handle the sort of structured, monotonous life that being a nun seems to entail.

I am still, however, somewhat envious of the contemplative life.

The Spiral Staircase chronicles the life of an ex-nun, Karen Armstrong, who joined the convent at 17 and left it in 1969, at the age of 24. This is where the story picks up (apparently a prequel gives insight to her years of vows). I was fascinated for most of the book. I love autobiographies - people have such interesting lives and thoughts. Even those who are not particularly "famous."

I find it especially thought provoking to read the struggles and questions of a woman who is highly committed to academia and acclimatized to faith. We are similar in many ways (epilepsy is not one of them), yet where spiritual questions take her is drastically different than where I hope to see myself ending up.

For at least a decade, she walked away from any faith in God. As she has returned to some form of spirituality/religion, she embraces what I would call a fairly post-modern faith. What I mean by this is that the 'facts' and 'doctrines' of a particular religion are irrelevant. What matters most is that a person's beliefs make them more generous. Truth, in the spiritual realm, is not about reason and historicity, but goodness and kindness.

In no way do I deny the vital importance of generosity and goodness. But I cannot agree that spiritual truth is not separate from what we might call 'factual' truth. This is a too sweeping embrace of postmodernism for my liking. It is, in fact, quite tied to what I contemplated exploring in my potential post-grad studies, which have yet to come to fruition...

Conclusion: It is the meeting place of 'factual truth' concerning spiritual matters and Goodness that I seek in my own life. Reading someone else's journey has confirmed that. I greatly enjoyed Karen's story, though. Just because I disagree on this doesn't mean I don't admire her in many ways. I would love to sit down with the author and have a cup of tea and talk about life & writing & faith.

Thus I come to The End of my vacation reading.*


*for the first time in I don't know how long, I didn't get a book for Christmas! Sadness.

Comments

Laura J said…
yet...
MLW said…
Sorry about no book at Christmas. For the first time in ??years I did not even think of getting them! I wonder why?

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