Carl Frederick Buechner ( BEEK-nər; born July 11, 1926) is an American writer, novelist, poet, autobiographer, essayist, preacher, and theologian. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of more than thirty published books. His work encompasses different genres, including fiction, autobiography, essays and sermons, and his career has spanned more than six decades. Buechner's books have been translated into many languages for publication around the world. He is best known for his novels, including A Long Day's Dying, The Book of Bebb, Godric (a finalist for the 1981 Pulitzer Prize), and Brendan, his memoirs, including Telling Secrets and The Sacred Journey, and his more theological works, including Secrets in the Dark, The Magnificent Defeat, and Telling the Truth.
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I remember sitting parked by the roadside once, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter's illness and what was going on in our family, when out of nowhere a car came along down the highway with a license plate that bore on it the one word out of all the words in the dictionary that I needed most to see exactly then. The word was trust. What do you call a moment like that? Something to laugh off as the kind of joke life plays on us every once in a while? The word of God? . . . The owner of the car turned out to be, as I'd suspected, a trust officer in a bank, and not long ago, having read an account I wrote of the incident somewhere, he found out where I lived and one afternoon brought me the license plate itself, which sits propped up on a bookshelf in my house to this day. It is rusty around the edges and a little battered, and it is also as holy a relic as I have ever seen.
The skepticism of youth signals the beginning of a search for something actually worth trusting, both within one's own psyche and in the world. That's why teens, supposedly stuck in life's lost years, are often so unequivocal about what they love and what they hate, and so frustrated when they feel misunderstood. The adolescent spirit is not the spirit of the lost. It is the conviction that you are not lost — that wandering has a purpose, and that what you deserve more than anything is the freedom to walk awhile on your own path.
It is supposed to be part of the American tradition that if we want to step out of line, we step out of line. Democracy isn't falling in line behind the president. Democracy is for people to think independently, be skeptical of government, look around and try to find out what's going on. And if they find out that government is deceiving them, to speak out as loudly as they can.