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Excerpted from Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening the Spirit in Everyday Life by Sam Keen, Ph.D. Copyright 1995 by Sam Keen, Ph.D. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Somehow, they made me realize that it was possible that somewhere down the road I could feel I was okay, that I could be connected with other people instead of being shut up in my own squirrel cage with my fear."

Sam Keen, Hymns to an Unknown God, Part 2

One night not long ago, after too much wine (in vino veritas), an old friend--fortysomething, brilliant, sophisticated, successful in her career as an event promoter, exhausted after a year of sixty-hour weeks-- poured out her heart to me: "None of it means anything anymore. Nothing I do. All I want is to have a few animals, grow a garden, and pray. I am from the death-of-God generation. I always despised religion. My father worked on the atomic bomb, and I always prided myself on my scientific intelligence. I don't even have any image of God. But I can't manage my life anymore without prayer."

Another friend, a recently "discovered" artist in his early sixties, confided: "After weathering several midlife crises, I am finally comfortable with myself, have a good marriage, and have gotten my children launched and out of the nest. In the last years I have become moderately famous and financially successful beyond my wildest expectations. I have bought everything I ever wanted--an elegant house, a fine car, adventurous vacations in exotic parts of the world. I have given to the charities of my choice and been generous to my family and friends. As far as I can tell, I don't have any unmet needs or unfulfilled desires. But I yearn for some kind of fulfillment I can't even imagine or name, except to call it spiritual."

A new acquaintance, a Los Angeles real estate developer just turned fifty, a multimillionaire with a taste for fast cars and Italian fashions who is at once tough-minded and generous, told me over dinner in a fine restaurant: "I've always enjoyed making money, and I've been good at it. I like the good things money can buy--a Maserati and a world-class house. Money has always taken care of me. But it isn't enough anymore. There is a void that money doesn't fill. I need to change my life."

In what was to have been a casual phone conversation, a San Francisco lawyer I have known for years--forty-nine, quicksilver, handsome, master of puns and wit, sharp dresser, twenty-four years on alcohol and drugs, seven years sober--began to talk about life rather than law: "It all began when a friend said, 'You can't keep doing all this shit, or you're going to kill yourself. Why don't you come to an AA meeting with me?' By then, I was feeling desperate. I hated myself and was filled with enormous anxiety, fear, and pain, but I couldn't imagine anything that would make me feel okay. One day I was driving down the road, and I started to cry, and I didn't want anyone to see me so I put on my sunglasses. Then I started to howl, and I had to roll up the windows so people on the freeway couldn't hear me. So I went to the meeting.

"The first thing that struck me was the faces. There were smiles. And they welcomed me. I could see that no matter what problems these people had--and they had lots of them--they didn't have my problem anymore. They weren't isolated, lonely, or hopeless. Their faces kindled my yearning for peace and a sense of well-being. Somehow, they made me realize that it was possible that somewhere down the road I could feel I was okay, that I could be connected with other people instead of being shut up in my own squirrel cage with my fear.

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