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From one of the best books you’ve never read . . .


Witness by Whittaker Chambers:

My son was about two years old when I carried him to the car where his five-year old sister was waiting for their mother to drive them out of those dangers that they had no inkling of toward a future that was blank to all of us.

Two things made that break [from the Communist underground] and that flight [for our lives] possible. One was the devotion of my wife—devotion of a kind that asks only danger, trial and great hazard to prove its force. The other was a faith that, if I turned away from evil and sought good, I would not fail; but whether or not I failed, that was what I was meant to do, at all costs, without measuring of consequences.

Of course, we do not simply step from evil to good, even recognizing that any human good and evil is seldom more than a choice between less evil and more good. In that transition we drag ourselves like cripples. We are cripples. In any such change as I was making, the soul itself is in flux. How hideous our transformations then are, wavering monstrously in their incompleteness as in a distorting mirror, until the commotion settles and the soul’s new proportions are defined.

In that change, practicality and precaution are of no more help than prudence or craft. It is a transit that must be made upon the knees, or not at all. For it is not only to the graves of dead brothers that we find ourselves powerless at last to bring anything but prayer. We are equally powerless at the graves of ourselves, once we know that we live in shrouds.

At that end, all men simply pray, and prayer takes as many forms as there are men. Without exception we pray. We pray because there is nothing else to do, and because that is where God is—where there is nothing else.

(Ch 8, section XXIII.)

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