I came home from work early today, not feeling well. I turned on the television, which I almost never do (except for those times when I do) and caught an old episode of Joan of Arcadia. Do you remember that show?
I watched it when it was on new, and I really liked it. There was some stuff I didn't like so much. Like how when Joan did what God told her to do and good things happened. I got the message, but I didn't like it.
Something I really did like was her mother's struggle with the question of faith, and her dad's discomfort with religious indoctrination. The episode I caught today was toward the end of the show, I think, and Joan's mom went to a church and spoke with the priest about faith and disbelief and all the rest.
Later, when she was telling her husband about it, she described faith (or the crisis thereof) as consolation and desolation. Consolation was when things were going well, when a person felt serene and happy, right down to the bottom of their wriggly little toes. Consoled, right?
Desolation was the opposite of all of that. When faith leaves us and we're empty; when tragedy happens and we rail and shake our fists heavenward. When we flail around, useless and scared and sad, and blame "god" for making such an ass-hat world for us to live in. Then we're desolate, barren of faith and void of optimism.
These two opposing ideas made me think of the little angel and demon, the ones who sit on our shoulders and tell us what to do. The demon whispers of fun, naughty things and the angel admonishes us, begging us to be good and filled up with virtue.
I have never had that angel and demon, perched on my shoulders and whispering opposing instructions. But I've had consolation and desolation. Both go bone deep, and they take turns burning me from the inside out.