A Profound Secret

TaleOfTwoCities

Who but a former English teacher would take such interest in the following quote from the beginning of Chapter Three of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities?

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!”

I was enjoying a solitary walk at the mall recently when I started thinking about the other walkers I encountered. Despite the variety of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities, almost all of them were unfailingly pleasant. And why wouldn’t they be?

Even though most of us weren’t walking together, we shared a common activity. And we tended to greet one another as if we were old friends.

But then the Dickens passage quoted above came to mind. How much did I know about my fellow walkers? And how much did they know about me? Basically nothing. We were all limited to what we could see. Each of us was truly a “profound secret and mystery” to all of the others.

I hadn’t been working at Target very long–this was about nine years ago–when Anthony, one of my co-workers, pedaled his bicycle to the top of an interstate overpass, parked it, and jumped to his death on the highway below.  He was only nineteen or twenty.

His suicide was a shock to everyone who knew him. If anyone had any idea what led to that final desperate act, he or she didn’t share it with the rest of us.

Because the store personnel knew of my writing ability, they asked me to compose a brief obituary, which they framed along with Anthony’s picture and posted in a frequently traveled hallway. That was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to write.

I barely knew Anthony. But if I’d known him better, it might’ve been even harder.

So I quoted the Charles Dickens passage and simply said that whatever had motivated Anthony was a secret. A mystery. Something we could never have seen from the outside. Or been able to prevent.

How I envy God’s ability to see inside the human heart–and the whole of every person’s being–and to understand those things we can’t know about one another. How much better our relationships with others would be if we could see them that clearly. And how much more effectively we might be able to help them.

If you have any thoughts on this subject, please share them in a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
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Best regards,
Roger

Recalled to Life

I probably first read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities in high school. Then I taught it at least once during my six years of teaching. As an adult, I’ve reread it a couple of times. And I still enjoy it.

It may not be everyone’s preferred novel–contemporary novels are written in such a different style that many readers feel bogged down in A Tale of Two Cities. I can understand that.

But who can ignore that wonderful beginning? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (Kind of sounds like Dickens was writing about the 21st century, doesn’t it?) Or Jerry Cruncher demanding that his wife quit “pray against him…” Or those memorable ending words. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

But my favorite quote is “Recalled to life,” the title of “Book the First”; A Tale of Two Cities is divided into three books.

Without going into more detail here than necessary, old Dr. Manette had been falsely imprisoned prior to the French Revolution and kept in solitary confinement for a number of years. At last his release was arranged–and none too soon. He was suffering extreme emotional problems at the time of his release. “Recalled to life” describes his release and subsequent journey to recovery.

I referred to that quotation in my yet-unpublished novel, Fifty-Fifty, in which the protagonist becomes convinced he’s going to die at or before the age of fifty and takes refuge on a houseboat, where he lets himself grow fat and slovenly. When he doesn’t die, he realizes that he has been “recalled to life”; he can start really living again.

People frequently get caught up in problems that keep them from living a full life: physical, emotional, and financial. Even spiritual. Guilt can be a horrendous thing to live with.

Some people choose to suffer silently. Others take their problems out on their families, friends, and coworkers. And some of the most hopeless people contemplate or actually commit suicide.

Although people like them need to be “recalled to life,” that’s often not within their ability to do anything about.

God is the only “person” I know of who has that kind of power. After all, he recalled His own Son to life again after His crucifixion. How could He be incapable of dealing with lesser human issues than death?

The twenty-third Psalm says it all. Especially the verse that in one translation says, “He restoreth my soul” and in another, “He refreshes my soul.”

Are you so far down you need help to be “recalled to life”? Ask God for help. He’s only a prayer away.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger