Monday, August 5, 2013
Surviving Suicide: Recognition Without Cause
In Ignatian spirituality, an experience referred to as "consolation without cause" refers to the sort of moment in which one is flooded with a deep sense of awareness of God's love and a response of unmitigated joy , an experience that seems to come out of nowhere, to be disconnected to that which immediately preceded it. It was, for centuries I believe, thought to be a rare occurrence, something "granted" to only a few select souls ~ an understanding which has changed as it has become clear that, while not an everyday routine for any one individual, it is not at all an event or episode in the spiritual life limited to a select few.
The critical denominator in this experience is found in the term "without cause." Consolation without cause would not, for instance, refer to a sense of God's all-encompassing love found in a long walk at sunrise on the beach, a walk which might indeed be spiritually consoling, but in which the causes of consolation would be evident. Yesterday a newcomer to church told me that he had been "struck powerfully in the core of his being" and "bowled over" by the way in which one of the scriptural passages had spoken to him ~ I would identify that as consolation "with" cause. His experience and response were unexpected and a profound surprise to him, but the cause was apparent.
A couple of days ago, driving from here to there, my pondering all over the place, I experienced what I can only term a "recognition without cause." The thought that suddenly appeared, as clear as if it had been a cartoon bubble, was that "I can live without Josh." At that particular moment, I had not been thinking about anything at all related to Josh; in fact, an observer of my thoughts might have described them as fairly desolating, as the day was not one to which I was looking forward ~ quite the opposite. Nevertheless, there it was, out of nowhere: "I can live without him."
It was such a surprising thought to me that I can describe it only by saying that it is as if the quality of the very air has changed. This summer I've occasionally but insistently imagined making a trip to the Madeleine Islands ~ not because I've ever been there, but because they have seemed recently to call as a beacon of light and clarity, a place in which the sun and the sky and the land would be simplified, somehow. A place in which I would be able to breathe. A place which would feel much as I have felt for the past two days.
It might sound rather obvious to someone else, this idea that "I can live without Josh." From the outside, it probably appears that I have been doing so, with a mixture of more and less success. But in reality, for these five years I have been able to find only one of two alternatives imaginable as a long term possibility. Either he will come back, or I will die. Case closed.
I don't think that I will ever believe that he will never come back. Even the writing of the sentence . . . no, I would not survive the bone deep knowledge of such a bleak reality. But apparently I will live in his absence, and I will live in a clear, blue, and sunny space.
This is not a conviction that I would want to refer to as consolation without cause. There is nothing consoling, either spiritually or psychologically, about having to move on without my boy. It is a terrible, terrible reality. But doable, and not merely badly doable. So I will call it recognition without cause and move forward.
And start planning next summer's journey to the Madeleine Islands. I think that I probably need to go there.