"The central paradox of our current feel-good culture is that we grow progressively more and more uncertain and less and less persuaded that our lives really mean something. Feeling good is a poor measure of a life, but living meaningfully is a good one, for then we are living a developmental rather than regressive agenda. We never get it all worked out anyway. Life is ragged, and truth is still more raggedy. The ego will do whatever it can to make itself more comfortable; but the soul is about wholeness, and this fact makes the ego even more uncomfortable. Wholeness is not about comfort, or goodness, or consensus — it means drinking this brief, unique, deeply rooted vintage to its dregs.

"As we have so often seen, the task of ego consciousness in the second half of life is to step out of the way and embrace a larger spiritual agenda. Contrary to the fantasy of the youthful ego, this larger life will quite often be found in the savannahs of suffering — not on the lofty peaks of New Age transcendence, or in fundamentalism's fearful flight from complexity, but down in what Yeats called 'the fury and mire of human veins.' Only in this way do we grow, and do we find, amid suffering and defeat, the possibility of meaning so rich we can scarcely bear it. For this embrace of suffering, this acceptance of paradox, we deserve to be valued. As Jung put it so aptly, 'This apparently unendurable conflict is proof of the rightness of your life. A life without inner contradiction is only half a life, or else a life in the Beyond which is destined only for angels. But God loves human beings more than the angels.'

"Though we may not understand it at the moment, each swampland visitation is an enrichment, for it is an opening to a deepened consciousness, which can only be purchased through the experience of the opposites. This engagement of opposites leads to enlargement, not diminishment. If truth be told, we wish we didn't have to grow, but life is asking more of us than that. Our daily obligation to destiny must become like that of the soldier described by Nikos Kazantzakis, whose prayer is 'the report to a general: This is what I did today, this is how I fought to save the entire battle in my own sector, these are the obstacles I found, this is how I plan to fight tomorrow.' "