Several years ago when I was in my 30s, I was at a lovely restaurant with my mother and father. I cannot remember what I was eating but I must have liked it. I do remember making some kind of swooning sounds. Or I remember my father’s reaction to my swooning sounds. “You sure like food, don’t you,” he said. And I replied, with my mouth full, “What’s not to like?”
Long before the idea of “mid-life crises” became part of our modern nomenclature, there have been men and women throughout the ages who have undergone some tough, emotional and psychological—and spiritual—crises. Sixteenth-Century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, called this period “the dark night of the soul.” Evelyn Underhill, in her 1911 book, Mysticism, said this period of time “is a deeply human process.” In this passage, Underhill describes the process.
Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement contains a richly textured narrative about the brutalities of World War II in Europe. Here he describes how the love of a woman at home sustained a soldier through it all, and fed his effort to return to her.