my bright abyss/christian wiman

Struggle and Imagination

My Bright Abyss is the story of a soul in struggle. It’s not just the cancer that nearly ends Christian Wiman’s life or the spiritual vacuum created by his earlier turn away from god. It’s the fact that for Christian Wiman faith itself is a struggle, not to find some blissed-out nirvana, but as a way to enter the confusions and heartaches of the world. Episodic and fragmentary, the form of My Bright Abyss reflects the nature of the struggle: less a continuous narrative than a collection of stories that eventually becomes a barely discernible path. Expanding on bits of poetry, personal experiences, and theological debates, Wiman finds imagination at the center of spiritual life, the fulcrum through which we redefine reality and find meaning in everything from the pain of chemotherapy to the difficulties of prayer.

If Wiman’s struggle for faith is defined by imagination, his struggle for meaning is embodied in the act of writing. Liberated from the purely material and transfixed by hope, Wiman occasionally writes himself through to the other side. A sentence here or a lyric there suddenly opens onto a glimpse of something else, an order beyond what we know calling us to a meaning we can never fully comprehend. This isn’t spiritual writing; this is spiritual experience: mementos of struggle become rewards of faith, rewards of faith become intimations of immortality.