by Len Lear
“My wife tells me she overheard my younger daughter telling a friend that ‘My dad gets stressed over little things sometimes.’ And she’s right; I do. Just scratch the surface, and you’ll find the anxiety that is the other face of depression just below … The impetus for my re-entering therapy after a long hiatus came following a phone conversation I had at our local dog park. I ended up practically screaming into the phone at a UPS dispatcher over an unmade delivery; I won’t go into details here, except to say that, even by the hapless dispatcher’s admission, I was right.
“But as she steadfastly refused to deviate from the company policy even to redress my grievance, I became livid out of all proportion to the wrong done to me — something that has happened many times before as I hit the bottom of my recurrent emotional troughs. (Yes, I got the package the next day; even though the dispatcher refused to promise me I would, I’m sure she asked the driver not to make her deal with this crazy man again.) I couldn’t return to that dog park for months for sheer embarrassment. Shortly thereafter, I began work on this book.”
That is the beginning of “The Dark Hills: Thoughts on Faith, Spirituality and Depression,” written by Chestnut Hill musician, composer and ordained interfaith minister Scott Robinson and published by The Sacred Feet Publishing Imprint ($19.95) and due for release Nov. 1.
According to the publisher, “Part-memoir, part-meditation, part-guidepost, ‘The Dark Hills’ is an insider account of depression from a spiritual perspective. Drawing on Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi and Judeo-Christian wisdom, Scott Robinson leads the reader on a journey by turns raw, lyrical, startling and funny.”
John Killinger, author of “Outgrowing Church” and “If Christians Were Really Christian,” said, “‘The Dark Hills’ is simply an overflowing cornucopia of mesmerizing ideas, glittering allusions and rich spiritual musings. I could not possibly recommend it too highly!”
Robinson, 51, who has lived in Chestnut Hill since 2009, grew up in Syracuse, NY, and worked as a professional folk musician from 1986 to 1994, earning his MMus en route. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and has divided his time since then between his composing and performing activities.
For 10 years until 2009 he taught at Eastern University, a Christian institution on the Main Line. “When the economy tanked, it became clear to me that the full-time job they had been dangling in front of me for years was never going to happen,” said Scott, who taught Composition, Music in World Cultures, 20th-Century Music History and a faith-and-the-arts class called “Arts Odyssey.”
His musical group, Mandala, performs his original Christian devotional music that is Sufi-inspired. Scott was ordained two years ago by the Interfaith Temple in New York City after courses at the New Seminary for Interfaith Studies. He is also a chaplain at Caring Hospice in Fort Washington.
But after leaving Eastern University, the idea for a book about dealing with depression started percolating. Scott began blogging, first independently, then with amalgamated blogs: Progressive Christianity, Recovering Yogi and Elephant Journal. The last is a mostly yoga and Buddhism-oriented blog. Scott was one of the only Christian voices there.
“One of my most popular posts,” he said, “was about depression, and over time I found myself returning frequently to the subject. I began researching the topic and writing new material. As the body of work grew, it became clear to me that I had a book in the making.”
Interestingly, Scott’s book draws on several different religious traditions. Why not just Judeo-Christian? “I’ve always been fascinated by religions and intrigued by the many ways in which they intersect,” he replied. “Also, certain tenets of belief may exist in many traditions but not be equally emphasized in all. For example, the Gospel faith is predicated on incarnation — God making the human body holy by taking a human form.
“But ever since Platonism crept into Christianity, the body has been seen as at odds with the soul, and its place in the economy of salvation has been suppressed. Yogic philosophy allowed me to reclaim incarnational theology by encouraging me to pay attention to the body. Sometimes you have to step out of your own tradition in order to see it clearly.”
On Sunday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m., Scott will read from his new book at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy. A question and discussion period will follow. Between selections from the book, Robinson’s band, Mandala, will lead the audience in participatory singing of his original interfaith Kirtan (“yoga chanting”). (Just listening is OK, too.)
More information at 215-844-1870 or www.mandalaband.net