Pain and Hope

Your pain, deep as it is, is connected with specific circumstances. You do not suffer in the abstract. You suffer because someone hurts you at a specific time and in a specific place. Your feelings of rejection, abandonment and uselessness are rooted in the most concrete events. In this way all suffering is unique. This is eminently true of the suffering of Jesus. His disciples left him, Pilate condemned him, Roman soldiers tortured and crucified him.

Still, as long as you keep pointing to the specifics, you will miss the full meaning of your pain. You will deceive yourself into believing that if the people, circumstances, and events had been different, your pain would not exist. This might be partly true, but the deeper truth is that the situation which brought about your pain was simply the form in which you came in touch with the human condition of suffering. Your pain is the concrete way in which you participate in the pain of humanity.

Paradoxically, therefore, healing means moving from your pain to the pain. When you keep focusing on the specific circumstances of your pain, you easily become angry, resentful, and even vindictive. You are inclined to do something about the externals of your pain in order to relieve it; this explains why you often seek revenge. But real healing comes from realizing that your own particular pain is a share in humanity’s pain. That realization allows you to forgive your enemies and enter into a truly compassionate life. That is the way of Jesus, who prayed on the cross: “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23: 34). Jesus’ suffering, concrete as it was, was the suffering of all humanity. His pain was the pain.

Every time you can shift your attention away from the external situation that caused your pain and focus on the pain of humanity in which you participate, your suffering becomes easier to bear. It becomes a “light burden” and an “easy yoke” (Matthew 11:30). Once you discover that you are called to live in solidarity with the hungry, the homeless, the prisoners, the refugees, the sick, and the dying, your very personal pain begins to be converted into the pain and you find new strength to live it. Herein lies the hope of all Christians.

– Henri Nouwen

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TV Nostalgia Hits a High

Thelma

With just a few days remaining before the release of 15 brand new Arrested Development episodes on Netflix, the hype built up over the last year is raising into a crescendo. All fans of the show—whether they watched the series when it first aired, binged on its DVD/Netflix availability long after, or both—fully appreciate how rare a gift this is, and the launch of the entire season at once is sure to make for some raging AD parties.

More surprisingly, just last week, another beloved TV show by the name of 24 was pulled from the grave. Jack Bauer fanboy madness quickly ensued, and quite frankly, we shouldn’t be even a little surprised—Jack’s heart literally stopped at least twice during the show’s original eight-season run. The bonus season will likely air sometime next year, upping the ante as Jack saves the world in half the time he’s usually given—12 hours.

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Brevity in Communication: Twitter vs the telegram

The Victorianachronists

While Twitter has become a wildly popular new means of communication, it has not been without its critics.  Questions like, “What can we say that is meaningful in 140 characters?” and “What are we losing by keeping our social interactions so brief?” have abounded since Twitter’s inception.  The value of brevity, however, is not a new concept.  In the late 19th and early 20th century, one of the most efficient ways to transmit important information rapidly over great distances was the telegram.

Telegram authors had an incentive to be brief – most telegram companies charged per word.  As a result, authors took some common shortcuts used in the Twitterverse such as dropping pronouns and articles and using abbreviations and code words to maximize information and minimize characters.  So forced brevity in communications isn’t really a new concept at all. In fact, telegrams were often used to convey life-changing news-births, deaths…

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Monday, revisited.

ecjournomist

My chair is too low for my desk, but I don’t want to replace it. Big enough for me, canvas and yellow and covered by a fraying quilt, it’s a womb, my incubator.

When my sister was young, she used to have these fits in which she’d put her battered knees to her chest, hiding in the fetal position. I didn’t think much of it then, but I wonder now what she was thinking, a seven-year-old secluded in the dark humidity of her own breath and skin while the world lumbered around her.

I wonder if it’s anything like I’m feeling now, reclined in my little chair, hidden from the outside by my fortress of a desk and the folds of my childhood. I wonder if it’s like the first drag of a cigarette when everything disappears behind a cloud of smoke. The third beer on an empty stomach. A…

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