It’s always a blessing to have coffee with Arnie. We listen closely, offer insights and encouragement, have a few laughs, and then go our separate ways in the hope that we’ll meet again. This morning we ruminated on the fact that personal stories are fictitious. They may be based on actual events, but for the most part they’re embellished versions of what we chose to remember. In my case, many of them lean towards the negative — depicting me as clumsy, unworthy, and lazy among other undesirable characteristics.
I know that they’re based on comments made by people long deceased and that they’re untrue. Why then, we wondered, do they continue to have such a pull? Why do we continue to give them such power over our present-day mind state? Arnie brought up John Bunyan’s allegory of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) in which a man called Christian finds himself sinking in a bog under the weight of sins and guilt.
It is the low ground where the scum and filth of a guilty conscience, caused by conviction of sin, continually gather, and for this reason it is called the Slough of Despond.
Abandoned by his travelling companion Pliable, Christian is paralyzed by fear and remorse as he stands knee-deep in mud and water. It takes him a while to discern that the edge of the slough — and safe, new terrain — was never far away. Assisted by a man named Help he eventually wades to shore and continues the journey.
source: Thomas, J.H. (1964/1971). (ed). Pilgrim’s Progress in today’s English. Moody Publishers, p. 18. image: www.storeysltd.co.uk