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Bookends; Former Star Reporter Searches for Everyday Epiphanies April 28, 2012

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Bookends; Former Star Reporter Searches for Everyday Epiphanies

By Dan Davidson

February 22, 2012

Star, Feb. 24/12

– 888 words –

 

A Rumour of God:

Rekindling Belief in an Age of Disenchantment

By Robert C. Sibley

Novalis Books

375 pages

$24.95

 

While there is quite a bit of resistance to it, it does seem true that there is a resurgence of interest in spirituality in the world. Sadly, some of it is quite extreme and off the wall, making it difficult to take it seriously, but it’s there. The prevailing worldview since the time of Voltaire, if John Ralston Saul has it right, has been to take religion and things of the spirit lightly, since they do not easily conform to a mindset totally devoted to reason and rationality.

Saul went on to note that rationality is only one type of reason and devoted a book, Equilibrium, to discussing the other types.

Still there is that prevailing negativity towards anything connected with spirituality, as noted by Peter Hitchens in The [RAGE] Against God and by David Adams Richards in God Is. They both contend that they had trouble finding their way to faith because they were swimming in a world in which the prevailing attitude is to be dismissive of it.

In their view, it doesn’t actually require any penetrating analysis or thought to become a religious skeptic in the Western world. The attitude is as pervasive as our penchant for wearing blue jeans and is simply a matter of going with the cultural flow.

It is Robert Sibley’s view that the world has become disenchanted and that the potential for religious experience has been replaced by a different kind of faith, one he calls scientism. He contends that here is a need for some kind of a sense of the divine. He’s carefully non-specific about which faith he means, but he does make reference to C.S. Lewis’s dictum that one way to acquire faith is to behave as if you have it.

Sibley says that we humans are short-changing our experience of life unless we allow ourselves to experience the occasional glimpses of the divine in the ordinary world. We need to be open to being surprised by joy (Lewis again) and to the epiphanies of everyday life.

The seven essays in this sometimes-dense book address this question. The book can be heavy going at times, due in part to Sibley’s habit of quoting a great many other writers along his journey, but his adoption of a simple bookend style for each essay does help center the reader’s attention.

Simply put, each piece begins and ends with an autobiographical experience, a time when Sibley experienced one of those momentary flashes of understanding he refers to as epiphanies. You can’t plan these things, and there is no guarantee that repeating the exact experience that brought one on will cause it to repeat. They are moments when you simply know that here is more to this existence than is hinted at in your experience. You catch a glimpse of the underglimmer, as Sibley puts it, and it makes all the difference.

The remaining chapters give examples of different types of situations where this has happened to him; situations given support examples of thought from literature, psychology, religion and history – hence the 36 pages of footnotes, bibliography and index at the end of the book.

In “The Long Way Home” he finds the experience in his personal roots. Other chapters extol the virtues of place, solitude, wonder, and walking, the latter activity being one which he finds particularly effective. Two of the vignettes take place in the Yukon, others in British Columbia, Spain, Japan and England. Sibley is particularly fond of walking tours and pilgrimages and has written extensively about his experiences in Spain and Japan.

On these journeys and in other parts of his daily walk, he says he seeks to find a way to locate the mysticism of everyday life; something that he feels is essential to help us navigate our way through this life.

Robert C. Sibley apparently grew up I n Alberta and the Yukon and some of his earliest jobs were in the territory. In 1970 he had a job in construction that required him to drive the Carcross Road regularly and be mesmerized by Emerald Lake. By 1976 he was employed by a mining company doing some exploration near Ross River and was left alone in a bush camp for days at a time. In 1977 he went to work at the Whitehorse Star. This is the year I began scribbling for the paper, so we probably shared space in the odd edition or two.

He went on to the Edmonton Journal in 1978 and moved on to the Ottawa Citizen in 1986. He has worked his way through the ranks as reporter, feature writer, opinion page editor, editorial writer, columnist and, now, senior writer, and somewhere along the way he acquired a PhD in political science from Carlton University, where he is also an adjunct professor.

His Citizen blog is called “Ideas and Consequences” and contains some interesting material. He seems to write series from time to time. His15 pieces on the monuments of Ottawa, as well as some of his travel writings related to his walking journeys are available for downloading from the paper’s website.

 

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