“When you have come to the edge
Of all light that you know
And are about to drop off into the darkness
Of the unknown,
Faith is knowing
One of two things will happen:
There will be something solid to stand on or
You will be taught to fly.”I learned just the other day that this quote came from Patrick Overton. This "nationally recognized community arts developer" is also recognized as the "author of the 'Faith' poem. This comes as somewhat of a revelation to me, since those words had, up until now, been the words that were on a scrap of paper that my father had taped to the light on his desk. When I went to his office to clear out his desk after he died, it was the one bit of memorabilia I felt the need to hold onto once the rest of his considerable mess had been loaded into boxes and made ready for their next destination. Whatever that was. He was a printing salesman, and the paper on his desk was primarily references to other paper that would eventually become printing jobs: phone numbers and artwork and layouts and calendars and scribbled notes that would all eventually become, through some strange magic that only he understood, printed material for his customers.
There were probably some other sales-related witticisms or cartoons that I have forgotten now, He was very proud of his trade. He claimed to have ink running in his veins. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that he wasn't above getting his hands dirty when the occasion called for it. He liked to take us kids for tours of the printing shop where he worked. He offered to let us "test the temperature of the ink" by dipping our fingers in the tray at the top of the offset press. We walked around for a day or two later with black fingers as a result.
My father left his home and family shortly after his fiftieth birthday, hoping to find that thing that some fifty-year-old men go looking for when they become fifty-year-old men. To no one's surprise, he struggled to find that thing that was always there in the first place. He felt that he had come to the edge of all the light he had known. He took off in a plane that came back to something solid. Way too solid.
And though it took me years to come to grips with that tragedy. Not part of God's plan, more of an oversight, a mistake. Not the type of thing you might expect from an omniscient presence, but we all make mistakes. Then we try to learn from them. I learned not to stick my hand in the ink.