The Other Afghan Journal by Rick Anderson


In this autobiographical concatenation of prose and verse, poetry is mixed with narratives in a way that speaks about three different kinds of struggle.  One context refers to a struggle that turns about the soul of Afghanistan and how the author is trying to function within a disintegrating social order that, in some way, he is supposed to help form and mend (if these words best reflect how and why the US is involved within the problems and trials that have been plaguing life in Afghanistan).  A second struggle refers to a situation which exists back home in the US and how the author, as a parent, is at a loss in terms of finding a way to help a troubled, injured son who appears to be close to death amid the trials of his personal life.  The third struggle exists within the author's soul as he must try and find his way amid all the contradictions: enjoying maybe some success here and maybe some failure there.  What is success and what is failure is not rightly known.  Readers must decide from themselves as must the author in an account that he gives about his experiences that cover about a year that was spent in Afghanistan in 2015.  The darkness, the tribulation, is transcended or maybe we can say that it is sublimated by an order of self-reflection that is played out within both a natural and supernatural context although, if we think about divine things or the possibility of divine things, the reality or the status of divine things explains why, in the end, everything is turned toward a way of thinking and life that suffused with religious aspirations, inclinations, and sensibilities.  Nothing too much is said about belief or doctrine.  What emerges most clearly is a kind of questioning that goes on as the author questions himself and the circumstances that surround him in the context of his life.  Very soon, in his reflections, one discovers that the author is a Catholic.  The allusions are all too blatant.  So very many references and quotations are taken from talks and writings that come to us from Thomas Merton (who died in 1968).  In the self-questioning and in the self-doubting that goes in, a reader is to be warned that he will not find a quick read.  A fragility exists in the weaving of many parts as these exist in poetry and prose  but, for a thoughtful reader who finds that he or she is asking similar questions (we can enjoy considerable degrees of professional success but fail in other ways), The Other Afghan Journal perhaps provides a point of reference or a point of departure, raising questions that perhaps we are asking ourselves and seeing not so much answers but maybe a way to deal with the questions: moving perhaps more and more to a kind of thinking that deals with divine things, finding our way in the life of divine realities.

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