For years I have been exploring the idea of faith on the fringe of church-ianity and beyond. I like to explore what I call, " radical, scandalous redemptive imagination." I believe our old maps are worn out, in a landscape that has changed dramatically, and continues to undergo rapid change...old maps can not take us into new lands. I believe poets, story tellers and artists have the uncanny ability to be new world prophets...to resurrect old myths, create new metaphors to recapture the imagination of humanity towards a horizon of hope.
Shane Fulgrum ( Crash ), is a new world prophet. I was away from the computer, cell phone and all forms of social media last week and immersed my self into a draft copy of Shane's upcoming book, " Forest Life."
Shane said, this as to " Why I Wrote Forest Life "...
Even after all this time, I still don’t know how to live. There are moments here and there when I understand some of the things that I need to live. I need good friendship. I need to write and I need quiet emptiness. Unfortunately, I still spend too much time thinking about things that make my brain bleed. Sometimes I just think so much that my brain will shut itself down in a futile attempt at self-preservation. I haven’t been able to transcend my frustration and anger for society and its inability to match up with my ideals. My ideals being peaceful coexistence and productive progress. Some people reconcile this sadness by telling themselves that God’s gonna come back and fix things up real nice. I want to believe nice things like restorative theology, but I just can’t. I am understanding of those who subscribe to comforting narratives. I’d rather not see the world as cruel and chaotic, but I digress. Hence, my attempts to understand how I should live in a world that doesn’t make sense.
Although Forest Life is almost entirely fictional, the frustration and struggle of the lead character often mirrors my own irreconcilable sadness and confusion. Existence is a strange thing. It was on a cabin porch in the Tennessee dusk, nearly three years when I realized that my experience was a universal dilemma for conscious freethinkers. And so as the sky grew salty and the winds picked up, the rain began to fall through a halo sunrise and I found my story – the story of Emmett.
I have had the opportunity to follow Shane through his website, and musings on Facebook...he thinks deeply, he struggles and wrestles with life, any idea of faith can not be contained to a building, a book or any system of salvation. Shane's musing are messy...sometimes it looks like vomit on a page. They may not be attractive, but, they are shockingly real.
" Me? I'm afraid if God does exist, if there is a creator, he's just as confused about life and death and love as I am. Mostly I'm afraid that I'll continue to exist after I die."" Why are you afraid of that?"
I'm silent for a moment. I collect my thoughts and wait for the desperation to recede.
" If I do continue to exist, if my reality and perception continues on in some other plane, it means that everything happening here means something. I'm worried I won't figure out what it all means in time. Sometimes I feel like I'm doomed to screw it up and be punished for it. Maybe I'm already being punished." I can hear the emotion in my own voice, making it a shade huskier. I wonder if Maraye notices. ( Forest Life, page 64-64 )
Emmett, is the main character in this story, and if we're honest we'll see a bit of Emmett is us, or in the friends around us. If we're honest Emmett's story is " our " story...a story deeply embedded in life, and the struggle to make sense of life, here, now...and somehow beyond.
This was probably one of the most faith-filled books I have read in a long time...maybe somewhere along side " William P. Young's, The Shack." If you have all your theology nicely sorted out in your " God-box ", this book will stretch you...maybe get rid of your box all together. This book looks at guilt, forgiveness, hope, redemption, love, pain, suffering, death, life, heaven, hell...but it does it not in a nicely mapped out theological landscape...it does it in the messiness and chaos of real life.There were times I was reading and I had to remind myself that this is the writing of a 25 year old young man. Shane is wise beyond his years...he is a wise spiritual sage in a young man's clothes. For the life of me, I can't remember wrestling with such thoughts at a young age.
Before I sleep I normally lie awake and think of the future. I've resolved I can't understand life the way I can understand an equation or formula. For so long I've wanted to find concrete answers or die trying. It's hard at first to find comfort in not knowing or to make peace with it. But I think it is the only way to make it in this life. Getting stuck on a question only makes me estranged from the world. ( Forest Life, page 174 )
I can not say enough about this book...buy it, buy a copy for friends...have conversations over coffee, re-kindle some redemptive imagination, discover a new kind of faith in the midst of this profound human drama called life.
Oh yeah, Shane said this about writing the book...
" When I started writing Forest Life, I was suicidal and drunk because I had lost someone I love to a tragedy. Afterward, my question was this: why love when death and suffering are inevitable? I won’t reveal my solution to this problem, but I do present it in the pages of the book. These are only a few of the issues I grapple with in the story and I hope that you’ll read the story and consciously address your own uncertainty and fear."
You can pre-order the book...here.