Posted by: DCox | January 5, 2009

Sometimes Our Stories Aren’t Easily Discernable, but…

hillbillyWendell Berry created a character in one of his books named Jayber Crow (also the name of the book). Jayber’s story begins in the eastern hills of Kentucky somewhere around the time of World War I. Jayber talks fondly of the life in those days … corn pone, the town’s barber shop, fried catfish, and fiddlers and banjo players bringing evenings alive with their music. Jayber looses his parents very early in life and then looses his surrogate parents by the time he is ten. His next home is an orphanage where he learns to protect his inner life; what others learn of J. Crow is limited to the few things he allows others to know. His life continues in this fashion, until he returns to his home community. At that point, he discovers that he is home, in the fullest sense, and his life changes dramatically again.

Here’s how Jayber describes the circuitous path his life has taken…

If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line – starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past appropriately named danger, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been lead – make of that what you will. — from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

What happens when we look at life as a pilgrimage? As process instead of destination?
Have you had the feeling, like Jayber, that you have been lead at times? How do you account for the unexpected, the crisis, the possibility of making the wrong decision?


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