Loren E. Pedersen,
The Soul Grows in Darkness
(iUniverse, 2005)

It could have been a scene from West Side Story, glorified with Jerome Robbins' dancing and Bernstein music; however, these were no glamorised Jets and Sharks here. The gang-like existence of the Aces and Deuces in the Chicago ghetto was a brutal reality for Loren E. Pedersen.

Loren grew up in a real world of violence -- both street and domestic -- where he witnessed death and suicide and almost became a victim himself. Loren also battled with limited hearing ability in the prejudiced hearing world of the 1950s and '60s where disability or difference was NOT embraced. Catholicism was a must for everyone in his neighbourhood, complete with its dogmatic rituals and regulations, and naturally the guilt that emanated from it made it imperative for Pedersen to adhere to these rules -- so much so that he married the first woman he had sexual relations with and had three children in a row before he could find his own individualism.

Discontented, he went on a long spiritual journey in which he dabbled in medicine, traveling and Jungian psychoanalysis. The Soul Grows in Darkness is riveting material and whilst reading it I could just picture the film with Al Pacino starring as protagonist Dr. Pedersen. Ironically, Pedersen tells me Hollywood is beckoning and there are imminent meetings on the horizon for the screenplay.

Although these are the memoirs of Dr. Pedersen, readers will feel like it could have been a rite-of-passage for their own story. Each person will take something from Pedersen's life that he or she can identify with and utilize.

I asked Pedersen to tell me what he would like his readers to know of his thoughts, and I believe that this quote is the essence of his poignant story: "The Soul Grows in Darkness is about my inner psychospiritual journey and what I learned about the purpose and meaning of my life. My book is an attempt to share my inner responses to outer events and to offer the possibility that life really is purposeful and meaningful. We create that meaning when we discover that we are all in the process of becoming or individuating to a potential beyond what we are given at any moment. I eventually realized that part of what I needed to do to find personal meaning was an inordinately difficult task, to learn to love myself. With self-love, I realized that like others I was part of the divinity of the universe, which itself was in the process of becoming. That realization brought me enormous compassion. It not only brought compassion for myself, but for others."

Quite simply, an individual cannot contribute productively to society until that individual loves himself and finds his own inner strength and spirituality. We all have this ability within us and our quest should be to find that divinity in our own souls. Read this and find yours -- I did.

by Risa Duff
22 October 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.