Archive for August 27, 2009

CLSC Book One: The Spiral Staircase

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I had joined the CLSC — the oldest continuous book club in America.  And I have to say that I picked a great book to start.  Last night, I finished Karen Armstrong’s The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness.   Armstrong is a common presence on the Chautauqua grounds.  For those who don’t know her work, Armstrong is most widely known for her books on religion and its place and history in our world.   I’ve always thought her books were a bit daunting, so I never read any of her work.  However, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness is not daunting at all — in this book, Armstrong chronicles her journey out of the  convent and into the world.  At the age of 17, Armstrong entered the convent because she wanted to develop a spiritual relationship with God.  Seven years later, she left, disillusioned, tired, and physically sick.  As her book describes, her life outside of convent is not easy.  She has to cope with her dwindling faith as well as health problems and the rough world of academics. 

I found Armstrong’s book to be very honest.  I am not Catholic, but I grew up in a small Catholic town, and the nuns were always very mysterious to me.  I never actually knew a nun until I came to Jamestown (I know, I know, I have led a sheltered life). Here, I found out that one of my colleagues was once a nun.  When we got to know each other (well enough so I could ask her a personal question), I wanted to know Why?  She told me that she became a nun because she had to and she left the convent because she had to.  After reading Karen Armstrong’s book, that answer makes so much more sense to me.