Excerpt from ‘Strangers and Sojourners,’ II

[Anne and Edwin, the priest, are talking.]

Edwin: “I could have been the forerunner, even better than your garden variety rebel, a father of the revolution! Pretty intoxicating stuff, and I almost fell for it. In fact, I did fall for it. But it cost a ruined life to pay for my eyes to be opened.”

“Good heavens, have you killed someone?”

“No. Nothing so uncivilized as that. I…well, one can kill the thing one loves in a thousand ways. You can be on fire with passion for its beauty and ignore the hidden truths of a being, a soul. You can do all kinds of permanent damage thinking you’re making a beautiful creation, a free relationship.”

[Later, talking about his living at a subsistence level:]

“The little scraps that are left cover my food and firewood, and there are a few coins in the collection basket on Sundays. In Vancouver I was comfortable, respectably employed, influential…and quite wretched. [Here] I’m poor, but there’s a curious joy in this poverty.”

“Is this not,” Anne said carefully, pausing, “is this not just, perhaps, another romantic dream, this heroic poverty of yours?”

He laughed.

“Romantic? Nope, it ain’t romantic! It’s reality, and most of us don’t like much reality. Exotic images, impressions, good feelings, and above all, the illusion of being in charge, that’s what attracts us. Poverty is helplessness, vulnerability. You discover you aren’t God. You learn to live with certain kinds of pain that won’t go away.”

~from Strangers and Sojourners, by Michael O’Brien, Part 2, Chapter 18

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