Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scott Cairns’ The End of Suffering

endofsufferingOne of the best books I've read this winter is the small but powerful The End of Suffering by poet, memoirist and essayist Scott Cairns (so small that I somehow managed to misplace my copy after finishing it, and so powerful that I ordered myself a new one immediately!)

In 2006, while attending my first Master of Fine Arts program residency, I had the pleasure of hearing Cairns give a keynote address at an annual arts workshop which ran alongside the residency. Cairns spoke on that year's theme: "Love and affliction: The paradox of art and suffering." The address was the seed of what Cairns calls a "study of suffering," in which he draws from the life and works of a wide variety of individuals--from prophets and poets to early church thinkers and classic literary authors.

I find Cairns’ book to be a profoundly moving meditation on the questions raised by human suffering, including the relationship between God's purposes and our pain. In fact, so rich was my experience of reading it that I suspect it will be fruit for some future blog reflections, especially as I've had some more time to consider how Cairns’ insights connect to the particular affliction of Christian persecution.

I thought it worthwhile for now, however, to simply bring this beautiful little book to your attention—and if any of you have read it I would love to hear from you. If you're interested in learning more about it, you can read an excerpt on the publisher's website. I'd also encourage you to check out the musings of another blogger whose entry on the book I happened upon recently and really enjoyed.


  1. Thanks for the link, Adele, and for visiting Inscapes. I'm jealous that you've heard Scott speak; I hope we can bring him to the college where I teach sometime. I love this book and the memoirs I've read, but his poetry simply leaves me speechless with awe. How do people do that?!

    God bless your work at VOM; it's a very special ministry, and we keep the posters we receive on the wall by the desk as a reminder to pray.

  2. You're welcome, and it was a pleasure to stumble upon your blog. Ah yes, his poetry is a whole other kind of loveliness (he also read some poetry at the Glen Workshops I've attended). I know he's a speaker at this year's Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Michigan, so if there's any way you could make it to that, I'm sure you'd highly enjoy it!

    Thanks very much for the blessings on VOM's ministry, and glad to hear you are remembering the suffering Church in prayer. (Scott's work certainly emphasizes the mystery and beauty of the process of prayer in a unique way, too)




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