Joan of Arcadia: Desolation and Consolation

The following is from the Joan of Arcadia‘s Season 1 finale. Joan is in the hospital, and doctors think that she may have a medical condition that leads her to have hallucinations. This leads to a crucial question: Are Joan’s visions of God real, or are they all in her head?

Joan’s parents, Helen and Will, are talking about God beside Joan’s hospital bed. Helen is open to religion, and she’s thinking to converting to Catholicism. Will, on the other hand, does not believe in God, but he has a strong moral compass as the police chief of Arcadia. Their family has had a lot of problems over the past year, for their athlete son, Kevin, became a paraplegic as a result of a car accident.

This is one of my favorite speeches: desolation and consolation. Read it as you imagine Mary Steenburgen’s sweet, motherly voice.
From Joan Of Arcadia – 1.23 – Silence

Helen – I was talking to a priest today. I’m telling you now. I–wasn’t gonna hide it. Do you want to hear what a priest said?

Will – Was it a handsome priest?

Helen – [Laughs] Not as handsome as you.

Will – Go on.

Helen – He said that we go through times on consolation and desolation. Consolation is when… things are flowing, and everything makes sense, and… you feel connected, and… you’re aware that god is present and… has plans for you, maybe… even likes you a little bit. You remember that?

Will – Sometimes.

Helen – Desolation is the other thing. When you are… scared… and confused and alone and out of step, and your cell phone doesn’t work, and… your daughter gets sick, and… the cops come to the door and say there’s been an accident. God… retreats, and… you’re left with your own thoughts, and those thoughts are…dark. There are answers there. He told me. And strength.

Will – How long does desolation last?

Helen – As long as it needs to.
My emotional state is mostly desolation–I feel angry, bitter, and disconnected from God, myself, and others. And there are days when my stuff just doesn’t seem to work! But I usually feel consolation after an hour of prayer. And if I don’t, then I pray for another hour. I also feel better after I watch Desperate Housewives: that’s something I noticed this week! It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s deep, and it teaches values, even though the characters clearly have their moral flaws (like all of us).

Whatever gets my mind off myself leads me to consolation. Usually, this is solitary, since I’m really self-conscious around people. But there have been times when I have been inspired by something I’ve heard in a class, or in church, or in an AA meeting.

Also, religion can be an enemy and a friend of consolation. The cure for desolation is for me to get my mind off of myself. But religion promotes introspection and self-evaluation: how am I doing morally and spiritually? This leads me to despair and anger. That’s why, even though I don’t entirely agree with Luther’s interpretation of salvation from a Scriptural standpoint, I can deeply identify with his views on law and grace: the law leads us to despair, since we can never measure up to its demands. When religion helps me to get my mind off myself and onto inspiring things, that leads me to consolation.

And yet, there are times when introspection and moral self-correction can occur in the context of God’s love and gentleness. In those cases, I feel awakened and consoled, not desolate.

What leads you to desolation and consolation?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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3 Responses to Joan of Arcadia: Desolation and Consolation

  1. Liz says:

    this is a wonderful post. I really enjoyed reading :]
    Also one of my favorite scenes in the show! I’m re watching i enjoyed it so much.
    Keep on keeping on! :]


  2. James Pate says:

    It is an awesome scene! I think about it a lot, even though I haven’t watched the show for a couple of years.


  3. Pingback: Peace with Oneself, Others, and God | James' Ramblings

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