In so many ways, life is a balancing act. While it’s important to know what we want (you can’t hit a target you can’t see) — life has a way of throwing unexpected variables in our direction. Even the best plan is at the mercy of the unknown, which Kate Bowler, author of the much-anticipated memoir No Cure For Being Human, knows quite well. At the age of 35, Kate received a serious cancer diagnosis, putting her life plans on hold and bringing her face-to-face with some of life’s harshest yet most beautiful truths. With refreshing insights on our culture’s “best life now” advice industry, and themes of faith and ambition, this book has something to teach everybody about what it means to be human.
In the excerpt below, get a feel for just how masterfully author Kate Bowler turns the fragility of our human experience into meaning. For more, you can purchase your own copy here.
No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler
A few years ago, in between scans, I decided to make the pilgrimage with my family to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. A worthy bucket list item. Just off of Route 66, I found a tiny chapel surrounded by ponderosa pine. No towns for miles. Curious, I tried the door and, finding it unlocked, tentatively walked inside.
The room was a miniature sanctuary, unheated and inelegant. The floor was loose gravel, and someone had nailed together some benches to face a chunk of stone serving as an altar. But the light of the setting sun — an incandescent orange — poured through the windows and lit up the walls, which were covered with graffiti both fresh and faded.
I ran my fingers along the black ink covering the altar and the pen marking gouging the soft wooden walls. Almost every inch of it was covered with words.
I miss you every day.
Please let my daughter be the way she was before.
Did you make it to heaven, my love?
Helen, I am weak. But you already knew that.
I looked up. Hundreds of slips of paper were stuffed into the rafters and seams in the wall. All the people who have fallen into the cracks in the universe, undone by the smallest tragedies. We try to outsmart our limitations and our bad, bad luck but here we are, shouting the truth into the abyss. There is no cure to being human.
Kate Bowler is an associate professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School. She completed her undergraduate degree at Macalester College, received a master’s of religion from Yale Divinity School, and a PhD at Duke University. She is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, the New York Times bestselling memoir Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, and The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities. On her popular podcast, Everything Happens, she talks with people about what they have learned in difficult times and why it is so difficult to speak frankly about suffering. She has appeared on the TED stage, NPR, and Today, and her writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, Toban, and son, Zach.