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Providence

Providence is Daniel Quinn’s autobiography. Though it obviously differs from Ishmael, a work of fiction, I kept feeling that while reading Providence, I was reading what that book would be, had it been narrated by Ishmael.

The book tells of Quinn’s 50 years leading up to writing Ishmael, from growing up in the Great Depression, to studying as a Trappist monk under Thomas Merton, and his eventual rejection of Christianity and its god.

At one point, Quinn describes what he experienced as a Trappist monk when he was allowed to go outside for the first time in three weeks:

I turned and faced the sunshine, and the breath went out of me as if someone had punched me in the stomach. That was the effect of receiving this sigh, of seeing the world as it is. I was astounded, bowled over, dumbfounded.

Everything was burning.

Every blade of grass, every single leaf of every single tree was radiant, was blazing — incandescent with a raging power that was unmistakably divine.

I was overwhelmed. In a single second of this, of seeing this truth, tears flooded my eyes and poured down my face as I walked along…

What I was seeing was reality, was the world as it actually is, every moment of every day.

What struck me so about this, is that the passage describes something akin to what I experienced after opening my eyes after meditation in the arboretum upon Sehome hill — though more of a white radiance than raging flames. Perhaps there’s something to that, no?

The book is a recommended read for fans of Quinn’s other works.

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