“’How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done, oh, Father, What have you done with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here?’”( Louisa, from Hard Times by Charles Dickens.)
It was a question haunting me through my depression, a question lingering in the back of my mind unformed and unvoiced—only detected by the great, empty, meaningless void in my life.
It was a question that became stronger and louder as I began to heal, as that healing made me painfully aware: Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart?
People around me talked a lot about the soul and saving it. That meaningless void was because you didn’t have Jesus. Then why did I trust Jesus and feel so lifeless? Was I just not “saved enough?”
And, as I began to dream again, I wondered how I could have possibly felt alive in an environment that talked about something called “soul” but had none; that talked about filling a meaningless void while simultaneously squashing every possible place for the soul to grow.
“Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the mind of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.” said Mr. Grad grind and in that sentence I heard echoes of my childhood.
Character alone is needed, said Gothard
Reason alone is needed, said the apologetics teachers
Logic alone is needed said the preachers.
Proof alone is needed, said debate coaches.
Facts, facts, facts they shouted, drowning out the cries of the soul.
Who needed art, who needed music, who needed poetry, who needed dancing, who needed emotions, who needed love?
The gray areas, the ones that didn’t fit nicely into safe boxes and charts were deemed unnecessary, superfluous. These were uncharted territories; they couldn’t be trusted.
And while I personally was never expressly denied these things, there was still an underlying belief that the arts, emotion, and intuition were “lesser” than logic, facts, and reason. They didn’t matter.
Facts were all that mattered. Having the right answers, the correct worldview, these were the only things that mattered—only the provable things. And yet, after all the facts and the logic and the reason, when you stop and look at yourself, you only see the shell of a person. Because a person divorced from their emotions, forbidden to value this side of themselves just as much—if not more—than the side of logic, reason, and facts, will begin feel to as if there is no meaning to their life, as Dickens so brilliantly explored in the novel Hard Times.
“How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death?”
The soul does not thrive on logic and facts or a black and white paradigm. It thrives on wonder, imagination, paradox, and color. These are the languages of the soul and to deny them is to deny life.