It is nothing less than extraordinary how serious illness, when approached appropriately, can radically change the trajectory of one’s life-path.
Mark Nepo is an example of someone who, following repeated battles with cancer both within himself and his ex-wife, managed to confront the challenge of his illness and who emerged the other side not only healed but with a new vision of life.
Telling the Story
After his illness, Nepo wrote about his battle with cancer in a self-published book called Acre of Light: Living With Cancer in 1994. It quickly sold out and a larger, established publishing house released it as a second edition from which followed a critically-acclaimed audiobook.
In his latest book Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness Nepo offers his readers a collection of his written works. Some of these have been out of print for over two decades, He also includes original poems dating from 1994 and 1996, ten essays from his 2006 book Unlearning: Back to God and thirty-nine poems and prose pieces that have been previously published.
Nepo overcame the cancer that dogged him during the late 1980s and earl 1990s – but at the cost of his marriage. In his book he explains how he holds no continuing resentment over his divorce and feels that it was a consequence of the change in consciousness that was initiated by both of their illnesses.
During all of this personal struggle and hardship Nepo kept a daily journal in which he also started writing poetry and prose. These feature his experiences whilst struggling through the worst of his illness and the deep reflections it created within him regarding the nature of God and life.
Throughout his book Nepo occasionally pauses and offers up a short section of questions under the title of “Questions to Walk With”. Here the reader is given the opportunity to reflect upon the issues that the prose might generate.
Nepo experienced his own transformative journey, considered his role in the world and emerged physically intact but psychologically changed. As he ponders on this in his mid-sixties he concludes his book with the line ‘…it is an honor to be alive.”
Our Review of ‘Inside the Miracle’ by Mark Nepo
In parts, throughout his book, Nepo refers to his cancer in fairly graphic detail. He also reveals his clearly confused psychological condition at the time, presumably whilst under heavy medication, in equally descriptive terms.
The result is, I am afraid to say, a somewhat depressing read. Factor into this his near obsession with trying to resolve the conundrum of life that was given to him by a supreme deity and you have a collection of works that weigh very heavily upon the Soul.
Reading this personal commentary on such heavy subject matter caused me to think of the line from John Lennon’s song God in which he spits out venomously “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” This seems supremely apt when reading this book.
Quite frankly I did not see a great deal of merit in publishing this material for, and I appreciate that much of it is historical, it seems to fall into that realm so loved by the mystical traditions by which students identify themselves so closely with suffering that it almost evolves into a religion in its own right.
Nepo might like to think that he has survived cancer, and I genuinely hope for his sake that he has, but I fear he may never be free of the intense spiritual suffering.