Peace Be With You | David Carlson

In the wake of 9/11, David Carlson sought answers. He knew “something was missing” in our response to the tragedy, but he wasn’t quite sure what. This question led him to monasteries and retreat centres across America where he interviewed 30+ contemplatives. This book promises to deliver that “monastic wisdom for a terror-filled world”.

I’ll start with the good. As  you might suspect, the contemplative community views the American response to 9/11 as completely un-Christian. Indeed, our vengeful retaliation is an act more in line with the Islamic terrorists than the spirit of Christ. Carlson gave a central position in his book to the writings of the late Thomas Merton, especially his Fourth and Walnut epiphany. It was then Merton realized that humanity was one and that because of incarnation, we can never view another human as, well, other.

His closing insight was to compare 9/11 to Golgotha. If God had responded towards humanity the way America responded towards Pakistan and (later) Iraq, we wouldn’t be around. That’s a comparison worth meditating on.

While the message is important, I was frustrated by the way Carlson shared it. Instead of letting the monastic wisdom of those 30+ interviews shine, he couched their insight in paragraphs of introspection. Here’s an example:

I will never forget that precise moment as we sat across from one another, when an insight that had been lurking in the wings of my consciousness finally became clear. That insight would have meant nothing without the interviews that had come before. But that insight, now dawning, seemed to complete my journey. (244)

Use the preceding paragraph as a litmus test. If you are intrigued by his journey, buy the book. If, like me, you found it tiresome and wished he’d just get to the aforementioned insight, you might want to take a pass.

This book is more memoir than journalism.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free as a member of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program.

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