Public Life: Private Life

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“When I think about Henri, I think of two “books”: one is the book Henri wrote about 40 times, yet couldn’t quite live; the other is the book that Henri lived for almost 65 years, yet couldn’t quite write” So said, Carolyn Whitney-Brown, former member of LArche Daybreak community about Henri Nouwen. (foto right)

Most of us know Henri Nouwen from his books, but like most writers, he wrote the ideal and lived the real.

This is fresh on my mind because I just returned from a weeklong writing retreat at a friend’s pristine weekend getaway in the low mountains of Cle Elum Washington. Just before returning home I wrote about human loneliness as an after-effect of displacing God and putting our self at life’s center. “If you remove the sun from the center of our solar system, the planets would spin out of control and earth would be without it’s primary source of warmth. So even the best of human relationships without God inevitably seem at times out of control and chilled.”

I returned home aglow with the warmth of the inner sun and then faced multiple situations where the book I wrote diverged from the book I live. We tend to show mercy on ourselves while imposing ruthlessly high expectations on others. Maybe knowing everybody is “two books” will help us get our relationships in clearer perspective. After Jim Ceviezel’s experience in “The Passion” he learned to tell people he was just playing Jesus, he is not Jesus! We should say the same!

Spalding Gray is an example of a public persona whose unwritten book was a troubled one. His public neurosis entertained, but his private mental illness made him suicidal. Anne Tyler is careful to keep her public disclosure limited to her public books!

Also today: Southern Baptist’shave taken their style to New York’s theatre district. And Janet Jackson is pure as driven snow compared to Rio’s Carnaval.

Remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have. (For now)”

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  • Posted in Staublog in February 16, 2004 by | No Comments »

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