“Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life” by Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister is well-known as an author, writing over fifty books with theology as the main subject, The Benedictine nun manages to offer a lot of practical spirituality in most of her work, especially in Between The Dark And The Daylight: Embracing The Contradictions Of Life. This is basically a book that seems to be religion-specific but it is not that with just 4 mentions of Jesus in the entire book, topped by one mention of Christian.

If you just look at the title you surely expect to read something about how you work through the darkness, a book filled with metaphors to help you go through period of suffering and doubt. You do not get that. Joan Chittister has subtle approaches, staying true to the “contradictions of life” part of the book title. The author basically uses opposite pairs and oxymorons in order to help the reader re-evaluate, with redefining experiences as being the main goal. The focus is put on negative emotions like: confusion, solitude, loss, doubt and frustration.

A great thing about Between The Dark And Day is that emotions are fully taken seriously. However, we are also pointing towards looking beyond the surface of things, asking those things that are really important in life. As a simple example, chapter 2 shows us talk about frustration being a cover-up for a thing that we did not yet face in life. Frustration is highlighted as being something we subconsciously use as an explanation for various attitudes we developed. Such concepts are not unique in the book. You will hear about many interesting ways of looking at life.

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Uncertainty is something we always see as being a negative aspect of life. In reality, according to Joan Chittister, uncertainty should foster “the spirit of invention and possibility”. Then, the reader is told about how failure should never lead to despair as it should drive us towards doing something worthwhile. The idea that success comes from failure is not new but it is presented in a really interesting way in this book.

On the whole, we are looking at quite an inspirational book, one that you expect will talk about resigning to god but that offers so much more than that, with minor religious mentions. The only problem is that the content in the book is a little repetitive at times. Much of the content is reliant on anecdotes and quotes that come from an external source. The main concern of the writer is the idea, not the style of writing. Most theology books have such an attached complaint coming from readers.

Even with the critics, the work done by Chittister is definitely revelatory for most people. It does not matter what religion you have. Wisdom will be found inside this book.