The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality

Book - 2007
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In the tradition of Kathleen Norris, Terry Tempest Williams, and Thomas Merton, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes explores the impulse that has drawn seekers into the wilderness for centuries and offers eloquent testimony to the healing power of mountain silence and desert indifference. Interweaving a memoir of his mother's long struggle with Alzheimer's and cancer, meditations on his own wilderness experience, and illuminating commentary on the Christian via negativa--a mystical tradition that seeks God in the silence beyond language--Lane rejects the easy affirmations ofpop spirituality for the harsher but more profound truths that wilderness can teach us. "There is an unaccountable solace that fierce landscapes offer to the soul. They heal, as well as mirror, the brokeness we find within." It is this apparent paradox that lies at the heart of this remarkablebook: that inhuman landscapes should be the source of spiritual comfort. Lane shows that the very indifference of the wilderness can release us from the demands of the endlessly anxious ego, teach us to ignore the inessential in our own lives, and enable us to transcend the "false self" that isever-obsessed with managing impressions. Drawing upon the wisdom of St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhardt, Simone Weil, Edward Abbey, and many other Christian and non-Christian writers, Lane also demonstrates how those of us cut off from the wilderness might "make some desert" in our lives. Written with vivid intelligence, narrative ease, and a gracefulness that is itself a comfort, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes gives us not only a description but a "performance" of an ancient and increasingly relevant spiritual tradition.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2007, c1998.
ISBN: 9780195315851
Branch Call Number: 248. 4 LAN
Characteristics: xii, 282 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.

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kyoung21b
Sep 21, 2015

I'm not sure I can say that I enjoyed this book, though I can certainly say that I appreciated it.

It was very well written but I had a little trouble with Lane's mix of a very personal account with a scholarly approach. I was drawn to the book in terms of learning what Lane thought about the attraction of the desert for monastics and he certainly had a number of reasonably supported and well referenced conjectures about that relationship.

But in the end there was a bit of cognitive dissonance for me re. such a verbose and scholarly description of the apophatic tradition, which would appear to thrive on brevity, succinctness, and perhaps most of all silence. The short, enigmatic poems of the Tang dynasty hermit Han Shan provide a much more direct understanding of the apophatic tradition for me, at least to the extent that any writing can do so. Though I understand and sympathize with Lane's motivation for including his own experience to make a connection with the reader, in the end for me, a shorter, though still scholarly, work with a narrower focus would have done more to convey the essence of the apophatic tradition.

And though I admire Lane for exploring a number of connections between the apophatic tradition and more common experience, I found some of the comparisons a bit of a stretch. E.g. though he speculated movingly and compellingly about his mothers deathbed experience I had a hard time buying much of a direct link between that and the experience of desert monastics. Perhaps that was part of the problem of incorporating such personal accounts with a scholarly work. Given all the references for many of the conjectures, my guard was constantly up re. analyzing how compelling the connections actually were.

Though the book wasn't an easy read for me, and despite the above issues, I would still recommend it for those interested in exploring the world of desert monasticism.

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