Michael J. Fox & Robert Louis Stevenson

I’m fairly sure it was the noted author and literary critic, Arthur Quiller-Couch, who said of Robert Louis Stevenson that his life was “one long crucifixion.” Illness plagued RLS. and though he was something like that fine man, Michael J. Fox, who mostly takes the very rough with the smooth, RLS had his times as MJF has when his mental/emotional steadiness gave way as he lay coughing up blood and writhing in pain. Add to that—as if that weren’t enough—the deeper sensitivity of people like Fox and Stevenson as they reflect on the great hurt of the world. Along with the awareness of the incalculable anguish there is the soundless, lingering sense that the great suffering is also the expression of a single “great wrong.”
19th century Irish-born physicist John Tyndall, atheist, observed that his arguments in favor of atheism always felt much stronger when he was depressed and the reverse was true when his world was pleasing. I like it that he said that. I’m not using it as an argument against atheism. I just wish to say it doesn’t surprise me that dark days that come often or stay around and don’t leave—I’m just saying it makes sense to me that we wonder if there is an overarching “right!” or Someone who wants to look after us or Someone who will right all the wrongs and bring about a happy and just end to things.
I mean Someone who like Pip in the John Mills movie adaptation of Great Expectations walks into the gloomy house of death formerly owned by the now deceased gloomy Ms. Havisham to deliver his beloved Estella. She feels this gloom is all there is and so she sits in dust and degradation becoming accustomed to what she sees around her and with the heavy dust-laden curtains always drawn as did the bitter, soulless Ms. Havisham. Pip cries into the air words that defy the lingering spirit of the old woman and runs to the curtains and rips them down from each window and the bright sunshine streams in, exposing the vermin-covered tables, the rotten food and the filth of the furniture and all else. In light of the warm sunshine the astonished Estella sees the room and that house for what it is and sees life with her loved one for what it could and should be and together they walk out into life together.
I’m glad that there are gallant sufferers in the world who rejoice in times of joy, trusting through the sustained heartache. There is a gospel for the happy, thank God! But I’m glad, one way or another, to meet up with people, in literature or life who live well through pain sometimes too difficult to smile about.  It was probably during a period like that that RLS wrote this:
To go on for ever and fail and go on again,
And be mauled to the earth and arise,
And contend for the shade of a word and a thing
not seen with the eyes:
With the half of a broken hope for a pillow at night
That somehow the right is the right
And the smooth shall bloom from the rough:
Lord, if that were enough!
I think that sometimes the Lord Jesus would say, “That’s enough.”
This entry was posted in REFLECTIONS ON THIS AND THAT on by .

About Jim McGuiggan

Jim McGuiggan was Ethel's husband for fifty-three years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Ethel went to be with Christ on Easter Sunday, 2009 at the close of a gallant life. He has written some books including: Celebrating the Wrath of God; Heading Home with God; Life on the Ash Heap; Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul; The God of the Towel, The Scarlet Letter; and The Dragon Slayer.

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