I have just finished reading Nick Page’s The Dark Night of the Shed: Men, the Midlife Crisis, Spirituality—and Sheds (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2015). If I remember correctly, I first came across Nick Page’s writing when I was a teenager. I don’t remember much about what I read, other than it was a serialised story set in the future (the story may actually be set now, given that I read the story in the late 80s/early 90s!) that featured a beautiful girl with two noses and a grating voice, and where one instalment began with Margaret Thatcher’s brain talking to her bedroom furniture. I’ve also read Page’s And Now Let’s Move into a Time of Nonsense: Why Worship Songs are Failing the Church, which is worth a look. If you have read Nonsense and recall the story about the two-nosed girl (printed either in 21CC or its successor, Alpha—not the course), then you’ll know that pretty much everything Page writes is laced with humour that usually helps to drive home his points. Here’s an example from chapter four, ‘The Gods who Failed’, which looks at the various ‘gods’ that have failed men in particular:
God #6: Prudence, god of securitySub-deities: Stasis, god of reassurance; Ukip, god of nationalism; Retro, god of nostalgia.The worshippers of Prudence are an anxious group of people. They spend a lot of time worrying about the future and praying to their god to protect them. They talk a lot about tradition, about the old way of doing things, and take joy in reminiscing. They put a traditional telephone ring on their smartphone—those who have a smartphone. Some worshippers believe that their faith applies only for their own nationality or race. Doctrinal statements often begin with the line, ‘I’m not racist, but . . .’ Their temples are tea shops, traditional pubs and anywhere owned by the National Trust. (p. 61, italics original)
The Dark Night of the Shed takes the male midlife crisis and examines it in the light of Scripture—and especially the story of Jacob—Jungian individuation, and the spiritual disciplines. Essentially, Page argues that the midlife crisis for men can be an opportunity for new growth, and that the spiritual disciplines will foster this growth. The book’s shed conceit highlights the need for a person to have some kind of space in which to reflect and connect to God. In many respects, the focus on disciplines such as silence and solitude, prayer and contemplation, and self-control is nothing unusual. But I appreciated Page’s elucidation of these as to why they specifically help to address the male midlife crisis; his reading of Jacob’s life is particularly helpful in this respect. I recommend this book for anyone in their late thirties and beyond who, like me, is struggling to find his (or even her) place in the world.