Tales from the Couch
Memoirs of a Drunk Monk
by Dave Vaughan
The back cover ends with this note: Many have encouraged Dave over many years to get these stories into print, this book is eagerly anticipated and heavily weighed down with ecstatic life, ENJOY!
I looked forward to reading the book having known something of Dave’s travels in God… so here is a quick review.
Many of you will remember Dave from a few years back from the reality TV show ‘Big Brother’. Into the house he went complete with monk’s garb and out he came as the runner-up. This book are his reflections to date. Anecdotal, reflective, guaranteed to make you laugh, probably (read ‘should’!) raise questions and the odd disagreement, but throughout entertaining.
There is a whole section in there about the Big Brother experience, but that is just a part. Reading the whole book you might be forgiven for wondering how many lives has this guy actually had! Dave lives life to the full, and the overarching thrust of the book is probably that element. Discovering God is an adventure, a journey, one rooted in a deep acceptance. Grace is the environment that Dave’s stories will provoke any reader to explore and live within.
In Chapter 15 ‘We are all on a Journey’, Dave explains that the book is ‘a parting gift to a Christianity and religious system which I have loved, served and which has helped me massively in my journey.’ He also says that the book draws a line to this point in his life and journey. So the earlier chapters need to be read in that light. They are honest, perceptive and critical of religion particularly in its ‘Christian’ guise. They are full of the freedom he found through encounters with heaven’s realities with words such as ‘drunk’, ‘whacked’, ‘angels’ and a host of other words having frequent use to describe what was happening.
The book has to at least provoke an expectation of some measure of manifestation of heaven’s realities in the here and now. Maybe the book provokes that we ought to have Dave’s experiences replicated in our own lives. I am sure it will be responded to differently by each reader.
The positives are that all authentic story telling sits totally within both the biblical and our common humanity’s traditions. We are story-tellers. And we need to be exposed to stories as they shape and challenge our world-view. They should challenge us to live out our own authenticity and certainly not to seek to copy that of others. Of course sensational stories can do just that, and we see the wisdom in Paul of only reluctantly publicising some of his ‘not-so-normal’ experiences. My strong suggestion is to read the book without too many pre-conceived ideas, laugh when provoked, be open to how God might lead you… and probably do not be surprised to have an increased sense of the Presence of God and in-breakings by the Spirit of Jesus.
My own convictions are that we have to learn to celebrate the ‘normal’, so don’t lose that as you read. But in the midst of the normal there is the ‘beyond the normal’. How could it be otherwise when the basis of our faith does not end with a crucifixion but an empty tomb.
And finally, though some who might review the book would have started where I end, don’t be overcome by theological quirks. The author is not likely to be competing with the likes of NT Wright any day soon! The theologians do continue to debate the issue of Pre-existance as far as the Second Person of the Trinity is concerned… they are not debating any sense of our pre-existence. If other reviewers would like to start there, I choose not to. The book needs to be read for what it is. A journey. An authentic journey. A provocative journey. I’m glad to have read it.