I’m going to start out this review with a story of my own, so stick with me please. I remember a theater class I took many years ago. One day we were taking turns drawing emotions on a whiteboard—I can’t remember the reason why we were doing this—and I got to draw “depression.” What I drew didn’t seem sinister or threatening. It wasn’t some dark, horrible thing, worthy of a horror movie. It was simple and seemingly harmless, but it was as close as I could come to symbolizing what I felt when I was depressed:
A circle. A simple, clean, perfect circle.
Yet to me it was so much more. It was the path I took when I was depressed, turning in upon myself infinitely with no hope of escape. It was the hole I fell down that just went deeper and deeper with no end in sight. It was the wall I drew around myself that no other soul could possibly break through. It was the image of my depression, and it was an image of hell.
Years later, after I had met the woman would would become my wife and after I had returned to my faith, I read a line in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce that spoke to me in a way that I’m not even sure the author would have envisioned:
“For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself.”
And I thought back to that circle again.
There are two themes that run through the stories in Not Alone: faith and community. Both are expressions of the same hope: that you are not, that I am not, that no one is alone. Depression wants to make you think you are alone. it wants to feed on you, to turn you in upon yourself, to pull you into that horrible infinity that goes nowhere. That horrible circle. Like Ouroboros—the serpent that swallows its own tail. Self feeding on self. Hell.
Sartre was wrong. Hell isn’t other people. It’s me—alone.
Breaking out of that circle means reaching out for help—whether it’s counseling, medication, or a combination of the two—without help you are going nowhere, but with help you will heal.
I still get pulled into that circle from time to time, but knowing I am not alone helps me pull out of it sooner. The darkness never gets quite as dark anymore, the despair never quite as deep. There’s always a hand nearby to reach in, take me by the wrist, and pull me out.
An image of hope to counter the previous image of hell. Christ breaks down the gates of death and brings up Adam and Eve by the wrists. This is how the East depicts the Resurrection: as hope conquering despair, as light conquering darkness, and as life conquering death.
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.—Romans 8:38-39 (RSV)
All of the stories in Not Alone are a reminder of this one truth—that we are here for one another to pull one another up out of the pit. We are not alone.