Confronted with a lifetime of depression, Farrington tackles his condition in terms of “the dark night of the soul,” navigating the mind’s treachery and coming to terms with what is essentially a spiritual quest. Unwilling to embrace the popular concept that it’s “just chemistry,” the author digs deeply into the more dense terrain of his psyche, the boundaries of the ego, and a manner of living that examines motives, fears and the unknown regions of the soul.
From Christianity to Zen, Kerouac to Augustine and 16th-century Spanish Carmelite monk John of the Cross, the author dissects and deliberates, following whatever path yields answers to a complicated and painful condition. His choice is stated from the first pages: “BF Skinner was all the rage… I was not prepared to consider that my angst could be soothed… through behavioral modification.”
Farrington detours from the worn path of depression to a more convoluted if ultimately rewarding spiritual quest, one that is both honest and inspired, quoting Mariana Caplan: “When we seek enlightenment to avoid our suffering, we are fleeing from the stark terror of accepting reality as it is.”
The author’s comfort ultimately is found in Christianity, but that discipline is by no means everyman’s answer, the spiritual path as diverse as humanity itself, demanding only the shattering of the ego. Touching on the wisdom of theologists, philosophers and great thinkers, Farrington explores his options, the wise words of others guiding his search for spiritual connection.
By its nature, the quest is elusive, a jagged journey that leads Farrington through two marriages and some time as a monk. What many view as a negative experience is examined in the light of opportunity: “Our depressions, which we labor so to cure before they disrupt our self-enclosed routines may be nefarious blessings…” yielding a “conscious embrace of helplessness.”
Farrington is unsparing, willing to explore every avenue in his urgency to transcend the limitations of his disease, understanding well “the terms of that unknowing… are so much better than the horrors and constant anxiety of the self’s small world of delusory accomplishment.” Clearly the reward is in the journey, not the destination, the road glittering with observations.
There is grace in the struggle, and beauty, what TS Eliot calls “a condition of complete simplicity/ (costing not less than everything)”. This intense little book sets off a series of subtle explosions, small gems of wisdom scattered throughout the text like miniature grenades, sharp bursts of insight, “a hell of mercy not of wrath.”