“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
I’ve just started to read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012) and it has already turned my worldview upside down. I thought I knew poverty existed. I knew nothing. I have a feeling I’ll be writing more as I continue to experience this most moving piece of nonfiction, but am including a few links below to tide over your curiosity in the meantime.
- Official site for the book, including discussion guide and author interview
- An interview with Katherine Boo from 2014
- A two-minute video from Random House of Annawadi, the Mumbai slum featured in the book
The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (1503, Mariotto Albertinelli) Web Gallery of Art
Over the past week or so, I’ve been struggling with what I can only describe as an intensely suffocating sadness. And as much as I’ve tried to talk to others about it, I know there’s only one other person in my world who knows exactly how I feel.
Day 39 of the series Lenten Letters, forty days of contemplation in the form of correspondence to my best friend.
The Death of Jesus
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Day 24 of the series Lenten Letters, forty days of contemplation in the form of correspondence to my best friend.
Your writing style is so unique and fun to read, even when you’re blowing my mind open with unanswerable questions. Your writing reminds me of your Dad’s – harsh reality mixed with biting humor. People would probably be much more interested in your stuff than they are in mine. Maybe you should start your own blog? You think? If you get a book deal, please include me on the dedication page.
Anyway, I hope that buttered you up enough that you don’t mind me directly quoting you again. I just can’t say it any better than you.
Day 14 of the series Lenten Letters, forty days of contemplation in the form of correspondence to my best friend.
I was thinking this morning. Yes, again. And in typical fashion my thoughts were floating all over the place. G says I have “shiny button” disease: every thing I see, and every thought I think takes me off in a whole different direction from where I started out. Apparently, it causes him significant strife trying to keep up with any conversation we attempt while I’m in the throes of a shiny button episode. Sometimes he’s simply hanging onto the bumper hoping my brain stops long enough for him to get away.
Today is Day 9 of the series Lenten Letters, forty days of contemplation in the form of correspondence to my best friend.
Absolutely no evidence whatsoever.
That’s where we left off yesterday.
While we’re on a roll, let’s take a look at another theology of suffering, this time from Dr. Timothy Keller. Dr. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989. He is also known as a theologian and Christian apologist and has written several books on these topics.
From his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism:
“Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely, that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless…. Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one.”
Today is Day 8 of the series Lenten Letters, forty days of contemplation in the form of correspondence to my best friend.
Before I get started, I want to say thank you. I know we’re not even a fourth of the way into Lent, but I feel like we’ve both already done some good work here. What’s really made a difference for me is the conversation we’ve had. It’s given me plenty to write about, but even more to think about.
The other thing – which I know you can relate to – is the struggle to stick with the commitment to write every day. Actually, the writing is the easy part; it’s the preparing to write that’s really the challenge. Long story short, I sit with my nose in a book and a computer a lot these days. It’s become my new happy place. So, thank you.
Also, you might want to start that coffee pot and grab a cup before you dig in to this one today. In fact, I’ll prepare you in advance that this particular gathering of thoughts may take 2 or even 3 days to cover. You gave me some excellent questions to ponder during the last 24 hours and I have been in perpetual searching mode as a result. My (eventual) conclusions will take some pre-reading and re-reading on your part. You’re welcome 🙂
Got that coffee?
Here we go…
Today is Day 7 of the series Lenten Letters, forty days of contemplation in the form of correspondence to my best friend.
My reading today from Bread and Wine was an essay called “The Royal Road” written by Thomas à Kempis, a Dutch priest during the late medieval period. He is best known for the Christian devotional book, An Imitation of Christ.
I’ve lost count of how many “coincidences” have appeared between my random readings and our conversations, but we can add one more to the list.
Today is Day 6 of the series Lenten Letters, forty days of contemplation in the form of correspondence to my best friend.
Our exchange yesterday regarding prayer was a good one. So much so, I couldn’t devote just one day to the topic. Your letter – as always – posed compelling questions that sent me on a search for everything I could find about prayer. And what I learned is this:
There are no definitive answers.
Ugggghhhhh. That hurts my entire being. My OCD can’t stand to leave questions unanswered; my brain can’t take multiple interpretations to something that demands specificity; my faith… oh wow… it feels like my faith gets weak when it hears, “that’s just how it is.”
Rabbi Harold Kushner, who authored When Bad Things Happen to Good People, said, “God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different.” That’s what I found when I researched prayer and suffering. It occurs to me that we are going to find that to be the case with several things as we move along this 40-day journey. And it’s going to feel like we’re walking on jello.
I once asked my grown children what their favorite childhood memory was. Without hesitation, they both said, “the summer we went to the pool every day.” And it was a good memory! We would sleep late every day, having stayed up late every night watching television (mostly scary shows…Son’s favorite), playing games, or making crafts.
When we got up the next day, we would take our time with breakfast – toast, fruit, or cereal, something easy – and then gather our “fimmies” (Son’s attempt at saying “swimmies”) and drive the mile or less up the road to the swimming pool. It was decadent! Hanging out in the sun for hours watching both kids play in the water, Daughter asking me to count out loud as she would see just how many summersaults she could do under water. It was the best summer EVER!
Looking back now, I realize that this best summer ever was only made possible because of the worst experience ever. The reason why I was home and unconscious of time and it’s limits during that summer was because I had spent the previous 18 months contemplating limits. On life. Continue reading