Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 25, 2002
Writer in exile calls home after 20 years
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Playing at being alienated isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Karl Rahner once said that "in the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we learn that here, in this life, there is no finished symphony."
Yes, we do live in an enigma. The God who is omnipresent cannot be sensed, only known at some deeper level; others, who are as real as we are, are always partially distanced; and we, in the end, are fundamentally a mystery even to ourselves. We're a long ways from home.
Some of the newspapers that carry the column have kept that title, others haven't. I've stuck with it though, whenever the choice was mine, wanting still, ideally, to speak my little truth from under that umbrella.
Occasionally a particular comment from a reader helped keep me firm in my initial intuition. I remember one such letter from a woman who shared with me that she much appreciated the title because she had been suffering for years from mental illness and had always felt, precisely, an outsider, separated from others. I think St. Paul had just this in mind when he said that we live life "as through a glass, darkly." Each column has tried in its own little way to get an exile home.
In the initial column, all those years ago, I quoted Margaret Atwood: "What touches you is what you touch!" The column has touched on many things, stuff of all kinds, mostly on different issues within spirituality, often in a more bland and unoriginal way than I dare admit. It's been a good ride though and as I look back there's only gratitude, to editors and lots of others who have helped me and, especially, to readers who have been, for the largest part, wonderfully affirmative.
Each year I've done one column on the issue of suicide and probably the single most gratifying thing through the 20 years has been the response of readers to those particular pieces. I've a huge file-folder full of letters from people who have lost loved ones and were grateful that someone spoke out on it.
T.S. Eliot once said: "What we call the beginning is often the end - and to make an end is to make a beginning." Twenty years at this business - hopefully it's just a beginning.
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