Monday, September 7, 2009

Wisdom and Joy for Fifty Cents

I think the greatest invention of humankind is the public library—a place where you can learn so much for free. Next comes used bookshops and thrift stores, where you can buy books for next to nothing. One nice thing about moving to a new area is getting to explore new secondhand stores for treasures. It’s a cheap thrill I learned from my wife. After a day of poking through dusty piles of cast-off goods, I came back home yesterday with a small stack of books for fifty cents each. In my collection were a couple of full-color art books (one on The Prado collection, another on the Musee D’Orsay), a biography of Paul Klee (ok, I’m on an art kick right now), Halftime (a self-help book about midlife crisis—don’t ask), a military history for work, and a devotional by Frederick Buechner (pronounced BEEK-ner, I’m told). Lacking any profound thoughts of my own on this Labor Day weekend, I’ll share with you the passage for today from Buechner’s book:

To Suffer in Love (September 7)

What man and woman, if they gave serious thought to what having children inevitably involves, would ever have them? Yet what man and woman, once having had them and loved them, would ever want it otherwise? Because side by side with the Buddha’s truth is the Gospel truth that “he who does not love remains in death.” If by some magic you could eliminate the pain you are caused by the pain of someone you love, I for one cannot imagine working such magic because the pain is so much a part of the love that the love would be vastly diminished, unrecognizable, without it. To suffer in love for another’s suffering is to live life not only at its fullest but at its holiest. “One mustn’t have human affections—or rather one must love every soul as if it were one’s own child,” The whiskey priest thinks to himself as he says good-bye for the last time to his own daughter in Greene’s novel, The Power and the Glory. (Listening to Your Life, 239).

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