Received an Award of Merit from Christianity Today, 2009 and chosen as one of the Top 10 Religion Books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly Is there meaning in our afflictions? With the thoughtfulness of a pilgrim and the prose of a poet, Scott Cairns takes us on a soul-baring journey through "the puzzlement of our afflictions." Probing ancient Christian wisdom for revelation in his own pain, Cairns challenges us toward a radical revision of the full meaning and breadth of human suffering. Clear-eyed and unsparingly honest, this new addition to the literature of suffering is reminiscent of The Year of Magical Thinking as well as the works of C. S. Lewis. Cairns points us toward hope in the seasons of our afflictions, because "in those trials in our lives that we do not choose but press througha stillness, a calm, and a hope become available to us." "The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it." Simone Weil "Like most people I, too, have been blindsided by personal grief now and again over the years. And I have an increasingly keen sense that, wherever I am, someone nearby is suffering now. For that reason, I lately have settled in to mull the matter over, gathering my troubled wits to undertake a difficult essay, more like what we used to call an assay, reallyan earnest inquiry. I am thinking of it just now as a study in suffering, by which I hope to find some sense in affliction, hopingjust as I have come to hope about experience in generalto make something of it." Scott Cairns is the author of six collections of poetry including Compass of Affection, and the memoir Short Trip to the Edge. His poetry and nonfiction have been included in Best American Spiritual Writing and other anthologies. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, and The New Republic. He is Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri.
Scott Cairns is the author of five previous collections of poetry: The Theology of Doubt, The Translation of Babel, Figures for the Ghost, Recovered Body, and Philokalia. With W. Scott Olsen, he co-edited The Sacred Place, a collection of prose and verse celebrating the intersections of landscape and ideas of the holy. His poetry and nonfiction have been included in Best American Spiritual Writing and other anthologies. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry, Image, and many other periodicals. He is currently Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri. His spiritual memoir, A Short Trip to the Edge, will be published in 2007.
Cairns (Compass of Affection), director of creative writing at the University of Missouri and convert to the Eastern Orthodox church, approaches the theological problem of human suffering with an elegant and inviting realism. This slim volume does not attempt to give readers every answer or, as he points out the irony of his title, provide a way to end all feelings of pain and loss. Instead, Cairns offers a new and liberating perspective, not divorced from suffering itself but appreciating the joy and illumination that may come after a period of sadness. Most impressive is Cairnss ability to combine memoir with insightful theological interpretation. His repertoire ranges from The Brothers Karamazov to the writings of early church fathers and biblical Greek. Using his poetic skill while remaining conversational, balancing the cerebral and emotive, Cairns weaves his learning into short topical chapters that vary from the importance of communal religion to humility. This magnificent book omits the trite comforts often found in this subgenre and offers instead a rich tapestry of varied tone and content that will illuminate for readers their own experience with suffering. (Sept.)
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