Wednesday, January 31, 2018

“Bruised & Wounded” by Roland Rolheiser

He was a young man we knew well. He was part of a group of young people that were always around, always doing things together. The family moved away, but we stayed indirectly in touch, through others. A few years passed, and then came the word that he’d shot himself. The first reaction was disbelief. It simply didn’t compute. It made no sense. Even when we learned the supposed reason, it still made no sense.

Suicide does that. What was left for his family and his friends was the uncertainty of never knowing if something could have been done if we’d only known. But then, how do you know?

Roland Rolheiser has written a book that addresses these questions. Bruised & Wounded: Struggling to Understand Suicide is a small book about an awful subject. Someone taking their own life, no matter what the reason, ultimately leaves the survivors with questions, with doubt, with pain, and sometimes with self-recrimination. No book can or will stop any of those things from happening. “There is no pain like the one suicide inflicts,” he writes. But his book might be a step toward a healing, even if that healing will never really be completed.

The book is divided into six parts: a description of what leads to suicide, a proposal to remove the taboo associated with it, seeing despair as weakness instead of sin, how to reclaim the memory of a loved one, the pain of the survivors, and consolation. He writes with emotion and understanding, although I’m not sure if we can or even should remove the taboo associated with suicide, as it might be enough to stop some people from attempting it.

Roland Rolheiser
The real value of the book is the idea that suicide comes from pain, deep pain, pain so deep that ending one’s life becomes the way to stop the pain. What suicide really does, though, is to transfer the pain.

Rolheiser is a Catholic priest, speaker, spiritual writer of author of several books, including The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity, Prayer: Our Deepest Longing, The Passion and the Cross, and several others. He also writes a weekly column, “In Exile,” published by more than 70 newspapers worldwide.

A thoughtful, compassionate book, Bruised & Wounded offers hope to those affected by suicide. It doesn’t minimize the difficulties and the pain, but it does offer hope.

Top photograph by Redd Angelo via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Finding the emotion in our stories

An email arrives from the other side of the world.

“I finished reading Dancing King this afternoon.  Well done, Glynn, I feel it’s the most powerful of the trilogy; I misted up too many times to count.”

This third novel of mine is simultaneously the least and most emotional of the three I’ve written. It includes no scenes that are overtly tear jerkers. But it includes scenes that make me forget I was the one who wrote them.

When I was a child, my mother took me to the movies she wanted to see. My father was not a fan of film; he liked stage theater and even acted in community theater plays. But he didn’t care for movies. My mother did; as a young teenager, she had been shaped by movies like The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind when they were first publicly released in the 1930s. So now, if she wanted to see a movie, she had to drag a little boy with her. Me.

To continue reading, please see my new post at Christian Poets & Writers.

The T.S. Eliot Prize: “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” by Ocean Vuong

Poet Ocean Vuong spent the first two years of his life in a refugee camp. When he was two, he, His mother, and grandmother settled in the United States. He never knew his father. He grew up hearing the stories of Vietnam from his mother and grandmother. Born in a country he can’t remember, and with a father he never knew, and likely asking questions that could never be answered, Vuong did what many of us might do.

He created a past life. Part of that creation became Night Sky with Exit Wounds, which won the 2016 Whiting Award and has now won the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize.

The collection is comprised of some 35 poems. Several of the poems are directly about his father, and Vuong imagines different reasons (and realities) for not knowing him.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.