Heather King’s Redeemed

Now that was so cool: I’d gone out a couple of hours ago and gotten a book “Redeemed” by Heather King and, in spare moments read through the introduction and thought, “how come I’ve not read about this book on Welborn’s blog, it’s great and the sort of thing I rely on her blog give me pointers to” and I go to Charlotte Was Both and there’s Amy’s post on Redeemed.

The introduction to King’s book starts with a quote:

“The Christian religion is only for one who needs infinite help. That is, only for one who feels infinite anguish. The whole earth can suffer no greater torment than a single soul. The Christian faith – as I see it – is one’s refuge in this ultimate torment. Anyone to whom it is given in this anguish to open his heart, instead of contracting it, accepts the means of salvation in his heart.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein

The brief Introduction to Redeemed ends with:

He’s here to help, he’s here to help. Not a pious image, but a pulsing heart. A warm body. Blood.

Here’s an interview with Heather King.

Finally, some quotes from Redeemed:

p. 19: ….I wasn’t looking for nirvana (for once); I was looking for something that resonated with my experience. And my experience was that life is really hard, and almost unbearably lonely, and nobody “wins” in the end, and instead we pretty much bungle our way through, thinking we’re doing it wrong; and I had a very deep, sort of innate distrust of anyone who claimed to have permanently transcended that.

The other part of my experience was that, in spite of all the confusion and pain, somewhere in the middle of it was a tiny tiny spark of light….

p. 26 Tim and I were living in a little rented stucco house in a part of Culver City (home of the old MGM studios) called Palms, and we were gardening a bit, and exploring differnt parts of the city – the beach, the mountains – on the weekends. As I mentioned earlier, on the advice of a sober friend I’d gotten a kind of spiritual director – someone to run things by; someone to help me look at my patterns, the things I’d done that hurt myself and others; someone to guide me through the process of making those things right. This tiny practice doesn’t sound like much but it revolutionized my life, or at least began to. We live in a society that glorifies autonomy….

p. 37 When I first started writing, I was aflame with the notion that finally, finally, I would create! What I didn’t realize was that writing would create me. Sitting alone in a room for four or five hours every day, week in, week out – musing, imagining, putting words together – chand me. It changed the way I thought, changed the way I spent my time, changed how I thought about time….

p. 40 The other thing I remember from that first Mass: right before Communion, everybody kneeled and said: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” If there was one thing I’d always known about myself, it was that I was sick – soul-sick, weary. A church that didn’t sugarcoat or pretend everything was all right! A church based on mystery, awe, wonder! A church that had behind it the weight of centuries; that had as its guardians the angels and saints; that encompassed and considered equally important everyone from the towering intellect of a St. Thomas to the wet-brain in the street. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but it seems to me I never teetered on the razor’s edge, thinking, Should I or shouldn’t I? Let me carefully weigh this from every conceivable angle. It seems to me I got one glimpse of Christ and thought, O my God, can I come? Am I invited? Don’t leave me out, please! I’ve felt left out all my life . . . .

Perhaps this is the place to say that nothing in my past had prepared me to join the Catholic Church. As a youth, I’d painted “Dreams suck” and Sartre’s “Hell is other people” on my bedroom wall. For much of my adult life, I’d been a down-and-dirty barfly, hanging out at the end of my drinking with washed-up cab drivers and racetrack touts. I’d always thought of spiritual people as kind, calm, intelligent, open-minded, “for” everyone and everything – and religious people as deluded, narrow-minded, fanatical haters, and in charge of the Inquisition. I’d always been a “thinker” (which I’m not saying is necessarily a virtue, believe me), always been a loner (if those traits predispose a person to be a follower of Christ, which they just might), but nobody in my family was Catholic. I didn’t know a single practicing Catholic.

p. 53 That by leaving us “food” to eat and drink, he acknowledges and appeases our ravenous spiritual hunger. That eating human flesh is the deepest, darkest, most unmentionable of taboos: not cannibalism, though, because he gives it. The very worst thing a human being could do – butcher a man, torture to death a person who’s completely innocent, and eat him – Christ says, I’m going to let you do it: I’m going to offer myself up. I’m in solidarity not only with your humanity, your brokenness, your sins; I’m in solidarity with your pathologies. And in offering up my very flesh, I am going to transform the consciousness of all humanity, for all time. I’m going to descend to the depths and ascend to the heights of the human spirit and, to all who want to avail themselves, open up the possibility of becoming truly awake and alive to reality.

p. 129 Sometimes I think the whole reason I converted to Catholicism is because its churches are open all day. My career in the bars was at bottom a search to belong, and I have always had a sense of almost abject gratitude for open doors, spots to rest, the opportunity to sit quietly near poople without having to talk to them.

p. 157 I’d sized up my diet as relatively low fat already, but on my next trip to Trader Joe’s I started reading those little fat-content labels and I couldn’t believe how much fat was in, say, one tiny serving of cheese. Eggs, olive, and nuts unfortunately were also loaded with fat. Wasn’t I supposed to have <i>some</i> fat, I started wondering. Wouldn’t I die otherwise – of grief, if nothing else?

p. 163 I started going to Mass and saw that scattered throughout the city, in the midst of clamor and chaos, were sanctuaries of quiet: oases of dark tranquility smelling of incense and wax. Through shoot-outs and stabbings, mudslides and earthquakes, jittery nights and adrenaline-charged days – all over the city candles burned in red glass above the Body of Christ, the deepest, most hidden mystery of all.

p. 176:  “As far as I knew, the only practicing Catholics in the group were Dostoyevsky and O’Connor…”

[Yeah, sure, I know. But she does use past “knew” and, anyway, isn’t she right in a certain sense? I’ve read, more  than once, that from the Roman Catholic viewpoint the only separation is that the Eastern Orthodox insist that we _are_ separated. So, from the Catholic side, isn’t King right: assert union and to leave it to others to protest?]

p. 191 “Truth nailed upon the cross compels nobody, oppresses no one; it must be accepted and confessed freely; its appeal is addressed to free spirits.” – Nicholas Berdyaev

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