There is much more to this little coat-pocket sized book than meets the eye. To borrow from C.S. Lewis 'the further in you go, the larger it gets.' What begins as an apparently modest, almost shy attempt to sketch an outline of the 'end' (purpose, not cessation) of suffering, proves eventually a convincing portrayal of what it means to be human-sinful and being saved. Our refusal of God's unceasing invitation to communion inevitably impairs and distorts our connection with one another, and with all creation. We become agents of an insidious infection, complicit in a large and ancient epidemic. The healing of this wounded cosmos begins with the 'repair of the person,' and here Cairns avails himself of the rich vocabulary of the ancient Christian ascetical tradition to describe how this can occur. We already see a glimpse of the 'end' of suffering, from which much else is indicated: denial of self, the transformation of pain through thanksgiving, the ascetical disciplines of fasting, almsgiving, and the reunion of mind (nous
) and heart (kardia
) in prayer. This primary 'repair' within ourselves brings with it the healing of our connections with one another, allowing us to re-image the ceaseless loving union of the Persons in the Godhead. Scott Cairns is at once gentle and surgically honest, placing himself among the instructed rather than the accomplished, disarming us as he delivers some very difficult but ultimately salvific good news. 144 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
"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, really--an earnest inquiry. I am thinking of it just now as a study in suffering, by which I hope to find some sense in affliction, hoping--just as I have come to hope about experience in general--to make something of it."
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 through--a stillness, a calm, and a hope become available to us."