A sojourn in darkness

You ask:

What should I do now? What am I doing here? Where am I heading for? What shall I be doing? What’s life about after all?


I’ve been reading Let Your Life Speak, written by one of my favourite writers Dr Parker J. Palmer. Like his other writings, the book is about how people find a sense of meaning and purpose through vocation, and in this particular book, through his own life experiences. Palmer has always come across to me as someone who possesses wisdom and deep insights into the human soul.  This is why when I came to Chapter 4 of the book, I was taken by great surprise when I learnt that he had suffered from severe depression during one chapter of his life. Palmer  had no idea how come he got depression when he was succeeding in life, in the worldly sense, as a respected educator. In this chapter, he recalled the struggles that he went through. Despite his education, his life experiences, and his willpower, he realized that depression was not something he could fight with. Like all patients suffering from depression, there were moments when he cursed, when he lost hope, and when he thought that it was over, only to fall into a deeper abyss the next day.

 Palmer did not report on this chapter of his life to show how he won the battle. In fact, looking back, he had no idea how he gradually got out of it. But the experience has blessed him, in a way, with a special understanding of humankind that we ‘ordinary’ folks have absolutely no clue about.


 You ask:

What should I do now? What am I doing here? Where am I heading for? What shall I be doing? What’s life about after all?


 Palmer recalled that during the long period, no one, not himself, not the helping professionals, his family and friends, knew what to do. In fact, he got agitated when well-intentioned people around him attempted to hand out advice to him. “You don’t have the slightest idea of how it feels in my current state,” he silently protested to the well-meaning advisors.

 On the contrary, what Palmer remembered most clearly was a friend, Bill, who came to sit with him every afternoon. Bill didn’t talk much. He would just sit there, massaging Palmer’s feet for half an hour. This friend never gave him any advice. He would just sit there, quietly, keeping Palmer company. Palmer felt grateful for his friend’s silence, for through the silence his friend admitted to his ignorance, and the only thing he could offer Palmer was unspoken support.


 You ask what you should do now. Frankly I don’t have an answer, and despite our medical advances, I don’t think anyone in the helping professions has a surefire answer. And though I can’t accompany you physically on this journey of mystery, my mind is with you. And though I can’t even imagine the state you are going through, and how long it will last, I am always optimistic. One day when you get out of it, you will have an understanding of the human life that few of us have, as Palmer’s experience has testified. And you will return with an even greater love for humankind.



3 thoughts on “A sojourn in darkness

  1. Ada

    Dearest Paul,

    This just comes in a right time. And yes, knowing that there are people around and accompany with is very important to help the one who’s in hard times.

    I am self-tunning myself back to the optimistic me, wishing to survive with my present status and hoping eagerly that while I’m out of it one day, I will know more about love for the humankind.

    Go watch a film called ‘KJ’ 音樂人生 talking about a young musician commenting on his own life and longing to live like a true human being.

    I heard your name surrounded in my working place today, guess there’s a project coming up or sth. Surprisingly, hearing your name in the working place already gave me a good day. You are so powerful ^^

    Ada xxx

  2. Anna

    You article made me recall of the suicide of the singer, Leslie Cheung, who also suffered from depression at the time he chose to end his life.

    My mum suffered from depression some years ago too, but its cause is traceable as she had insomnia for a long while. Thank God – she got cured by medication prescribed by a very kind doctor at my church.

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