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Found

Found

Psalm 84; Luke 24:36-43

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational Church

21 April 2024

               Have you read the beautiful children’s book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy?  It was published in 2019.  Our copy was given to us by Charlene Wozny, who often finds wonderful books she passes along to me and Sebastian.

            The book is about friendship and learning how to live well despite all that happens in life.  The book is filled with wise tidbits accompanied by beautiful art.

            Near the end the boy whispers to his animal friends, “I’ve realized why we are here.”  To which the mole responds, “for cake?”  Cake has been a running theme of the book, particularly for mole, and how cake can help many situations.

            But that isn’t the boy’s answer.  He says, “To love.”  To which the horse adds, “And be loved.” 

            Then the boy asks, “What do we do when our hearts hurt?”  The horse answers, “We wrap them with friendship, shared tears and time, till they wake hopeful and happy again.”

            And then, very near the end of the book, the boy declares, “Home isn’t always a place is it?”

            This beautiful book is about being found—being found in our relationships with others, particularly our friends.

            And being found is a vital human need, one of the keys to a flourishing life.  Last year the Surgeon General declared that our nation is facing an epidemic of loneliness, that had risen to be a national emergency, requiring that “rebuilding social connection must be a top public health priority for our nation.” 

            Dr. Murthy wrote,

At any moment, about one out of every two Americans is experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. This includes introverts and extroverts, rich and poor, and younger and older Americans. Sometimes loneliness is set off by the loss of a loved one or a job, a move to a new city, or health or financial difficulties — or a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Other times, it’s hard to know how it arose but it’s simply there. One thing is clear: Nearly everyone experiences it at some point. But its invisibility is part of what makes it so insidious. We need to acknowledge the loneliness and isolation that millions are experiencing and the grave consequences for our mental health, physical health and collective well-being.

            And those consequences are well documented.  Back in 2020 the Nobel-prize-winning economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton released their book on the epidemic of what they termed “deaths of despair.”  How in American culture in this century there has actually been a lowering of life expectancy because of a sharp rise in deaths, largely among middle-aged people, from suicide, drug and alcohol addictions, and other illnesses that their research revealed were all a result of despair.  Despair brought on by social isolation, loss of job, lack of meaningful relationships, and an increase in physical pain.

            Surgeon General Murthy’s emergency declaration last year pointed out how loneliness increases a person’s risks for anxiety, depression, heart disease, dementia, and stroke.  The effects are not just individual, loneliness has social effects, harming our institutions, rending our social fabric, making our lives together more difficult.  So the response must be both individual and collective.  He was quite strong in the language he used to describe the situation and what we must do:

Every generation is called to take on challenges that threaten the underpinnings of society. Addressing the crisis of loneliness and isolation is one of our generation’s greatest challenges. By building more connected lives and more connected communities, we can strengthen the foundation of our individual and collective well-being and we can be better poised to respond to the threats we are facing as a nation.

            Now, in some ways, talking about this subject at a church is preaching to the choir.  For the evidence shows that church-goers are among the least lonely people in our nation.  And that the crisis of loneliness actually corresponds with the decline in church attendance in the last quarter century.  So, that you are here on a Sunday morning means that you are among the people who are taking steps to build social connection.

            But given that, my guess is, even all of us have had our periods of loneliness, especially four years ago when we were locked down at home.  And those effects are still with us, still shaping so much of our thinking and interacting.

            Surgeon General Murthy wrote about his own struggles with loneliness.   During his first term as Surgeon General during the Obama administration he said that he let most of his personal friendships suffer, replacing his time, energy, and focus with his job.  But when that job ended, he suddenly lacked friendships, began to feel lonely, and ultimately experienced depression.  He wrote that it took a year of hard work and intentionally reconnecting with folks to return to health and well-being.

            Fortunately, there are some simple steps we can take.  Dr. Murthy said the medical evidence shows that even taking just fifteen minutes each day to connect with another person can have a significant impact.  That’s as simple as one phone call or one visit with a neighbor.

            And even if we church-goers are among the folks already prioritizing social connection, we need to be aware of the epidemic of loneliness all around us, and look for the people in our lives—family, friends, neighbors, co-workers—who might be suffering and in need of a little extra connection.  Take a moment and think of one person you know who could benefit from your contacting them this week to check in and see how they are doing.

            According to Marcia MacFee, whose worship materials we are using this Easter season, Psalm 84 is “for pilgrims who are far from the Temple.”  She writes that the Psalm “expresses the yearning of one who would give anything to just sit at the threshold of this sacred place.”  For “the temple is a home” and “God is in the Temple.”

She points out that when we are on a pilgrimage, we are often alone, but not really alone, as there are often many other pilgrims taking the same journey.  Melanie Naughtin some years ago walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain and shared all about it when she returned.  She was on the trip alone, but every day ran into other pilgrims, spent the nights in hostels with other pilgrims, and routinely relied upon the kindness of other people to ease her journey. 

Marcia MacFee writes, “I think a word of encouragement we can offer to the lonely and isolated is to look up and notice the other pilgrims around you and to recognize that loneliness and isolation are not what we are meant for. And also to remember that ultimately, God is with us always! We are not alone.”

This week Facebook reminded me of a Christian Wiman poem that I had posted four years ago during the Covid lockdowns (I read and posted A LOT of poetry that spring).  The poem ended:

Lord, suffer me to sing

these wounds by which I am made

and marred, savor this creature

whose aloneness you ease and are.

            Just last night I was talking with one of our youth who told me that she’s seen how God can fill a person’s need, giving them a sense of meaning.

            Of course, the way that God often comes to us, easing our loneliness, is in the flesh of another person doing the most ordinary of things.  For example, the story in the Luke’s Gospel is revealing.  Marcia MacFee writes,

Perhaps the most beautiful moment in this story is the simple question Jesus asks as they pepper him with questions, dumbfounded that he is alive and with them: “Have you anything here to eat?” Meals are one of the best ways to be with people. Something about sitting down together and eating just loosens up the things that might keep us from interacting and connecting with our neighbor.

            The theologian Wendy Farley, in her beautiful book Gathering Those Driven Away, connects this moment to the church’s teaching of the harrowing of hell that I spoke about in last week’s Resurrection Stories sermon.  Farley writes,

The Incarnate One, upon returning from the harrowing of hell, does not make a lot of moral demands or give another inspiring speech or tell confusing parables.  When Jesus wanders again among his friends after the upheaval of crucifixion, he asks: “Is there anything to eat?”

Let me pause here, because this is so simple and so profound at the same time, and I don’t think we actually draw attention to it.  After torture, crucifixion, spending a couple of days in hell, and then rising again, Jesus shows up and asks “Is there anything to eat.”

            Wendy Farley continues:

No great moralism here, no miraculous pyrotechnics, just the pleasure of food and friends, pleasure, admittedly, in the midst of terror and grief.  Eating and drinking is just the ordinary pleasure we take in one another.  Eating and drinking together, we look directly at Christ.  We see Christ in ordinary pleasures, in everything we do.

            This Easter Season we are exploring the ways that the power of the resurrected Christ is made present and available to us to help us rise again from all the things that would hold us back and keep us down.  Whatever has us locked up, the Risen Christ provides the keys.  And one of the simplest ways that divine power comes to us is in the daily, ordinary acts of connecting with one another. 

            This week may you experience resurrection.  And, in turn, be the power of the risen Christ for someone else, some lonely person in need of your connection.


Emotional Overload

Emotional Overload

John 21:1-19

by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

First Central Congregational Church

21 May 2023

            I almost entitled this sermon “Gone Fishin’,” thinking of the Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby duet.  Reflecting on this text, I thought about my Dad going fishing.  He was a high school principal and a work-aholic, a type A personality (which is one reason he died of a heart attack at 41).  One of the few times he took for himself away from all his responsibilities was to go fishing with his friends, and drink a few beers, and relax.

            But I decided on “Emotional Overload” instead for the title.  This Easter season I’ve been focused on the reactions of the disciples to their experiences of Jesus’s death and resurrection—the running of Peter and the beloved disciple, the weeping of Mary, the fear of those gathered in the upper room that eventually led to their empowerment, the doubting and then believing of Thomas.  In this final, poignant story from the Gospel of John, we encounter a few of the disciples who’ve gotten away from Jerusalem and everything that has happened to them.  They’ve gone to the lake, to fish, and build a campfire on the beach.  This is a story that resonates easily with us, because we can identify with this act of getting away from it all, the act of rest and recreation, embodied in a fishing trip with friends.

            The title I did choose came from Gary D. Jones’s commentary on this passage when he says, of the disciple’s fishing trip, “This is how human beings often respond to emotional overload.”

            Think about it.  Their friend they spent pretty much every day with for the last three years was assaulted, arrested, tortured, and brutally murdered, and they were eyewitnesses to some of that.  They feared the same would happen to them.  Surely they have some PTSD? 

            And after all that horror, they then have a series of encounters with a living, resurrected Jesus.  How overwhelming must that have been?  I’m certain that they couldn’t wrap their brains around it.  I’m sure they were feeling all the feels—such a swirl of emotions that they couldn’t figure out which ones they were feeling at any given moment. 

            And, so, they just got away from it all.  Tried to take a break, have some rest, do something familiar.  They went fishing, as a way of coping with their emotional overload.

            And emotional overload didn’t seem to just be a great lens for examining this story, but also timely and appropriate for us. 

            For one thing, this is Mental Health Sunday.  We are a WISE congregation.  Which is an official designation of our denomination, the United Church of Christ.  This congregation has committed to be welcoming, inclusive, supportive, and engaged for mental health and wellbeing.  And, a point of pride, we were the second WISE church in the entire denomination and the hosts of the very first WISE Conference.

One of the ways we are living into our WISE commitment today is through the town hall following worship to discuss and brainstorm about the current public health crisis in adolescent mental health.  I hope you’ll join us in Memorial Hall if this issue is of concern to you, or you are a parent, or you are part of the ministries of this church that care for, educate, or support our teens.

So, emotional overload seemed fitting for Mental Health Awareness.

But, then, it also became an emotionally overwhelming week for thousands of us. It was particularly a rough week for the local LGBTQ community and those of us who’ve spent much time and energy this year trying to thwart legislative attempts to rob us of our freedom of conscience and bodily autonomy.  Please check in with your queer and trans family and friends, for they are under assault, and they need you to be loudly and vigorously defending them right now.  This is a struggle for the survival and autonomy of queer bodies.

            And once I leaned into this idea of emotional overload, a number of serendipities occurred this week.  And I delight in serendipities.  Especially during an emotionally difficult week.

The first serendipity occurred on Tuesday—that rough and difficult Tuesday.  One of my Facebook memories that day was a post Kerrie Kleppin-Winn had shared on my timeline two years ago of “tiny sermons by tiny people.”   It was a post that she’d seen somewhere else on Facebook and then shared with me and Katie Miller. 

These tiny sermons were one sentence comments by children that resonate with profound meaning and humor.  Kerrie had originally shared them on May 16, 2020, right around that moment when we all knew for certain that the Covid isolation wasn’t going away soon.  The children’s comments resonated deeply in May of 2020.

But I also found the wisdom of these kids was helpful for me this week of emotional overload.  So, I was quite glad that they came to my notice again in my Facebook memories.  Here’s what these children preached:

2-year-old Henry said, “Don’t wipe my tears away; I want to feel them on my face.”

6-year-old Ezra remarked, “I know two things that are permanent: love and sharpies.”

An anonymous six-year-old commented, “Sometimes I fall down on purpose so that I can take a break.”

Gideon, 7-years-old said, “Sometimes when my feelings are big, I like to sing them.”

Keira, also seven, advised, “I’ll just take a nap.  That’s how you solve that.”

2-year-old Jameson wisely proclaimed, “I’m too sad for pants.”

And one 4-year-old cut to the chase and simply said, “This is an F word day.”

            I feel that 4-year-old.  I feel them all actually.  And what wonderful advice.  There’s something in those seven comments for most people, most days—taking breaks, singing, napping, cursing, crying, loving, etc. 

            Another serendipity occurred Wednesday morning.  It was the children’s spring concert at Field Club Elementary where Ashley Lidgett is the music teacher.  The theme of the concert was “Rules for Living” and included a series of songs filled with advice on how to live well.  I’m grateful to Miss Lidgett for sharing the lyrics with me so I could quote them in today’s sermon.

            Mrs. Riha and Mr. Jackman’s second grade classes sang “Positive,” which includes these words,

I can close my eyes and picture how I want my world to be.

I deserve and affirm, my happy thoughts are good for me.

I believe in who I am, I know my thoughts are mine.

I can change the script I write and positively shine!

            Ms. Noon and Ms. Head’s second grade classes sang a couple of songs that I really liked, and not just because Sebastian, my son, was singing them.  Though I’m sure that helped.  The song “Rules for Living” included this advice:

Laugh a lot.  Smile a log.

Eat your veggies and fruit a lot.

Work and play well today.

And say nice things a lot.

Read a lot.  Rest a lot.

Wash your hands a face a lot.

Miss Ropp and Mrs. Kerwin’s fourth grade class opened the concert with “Responsible.”

No matter what the outside throws at me,
I’m choosin’ to react responsibly with

Decency, fairness, honesty, respect.

Discipline, justice, courage, and respect.

Integrity, compassion, morality, respect.

Humility, kindness,

And did I say respect?

Those fourth graders also sang “Do the Good You Know” with this advice:

We all have sorrow.  We all have pain.

Sometimes our sunshine turns into rain.

When someone falls right next to you,

Then you must do what you can do.

Do the good you know.  Let compassion show.

You can’t save the world alone, but you can do the good you know.

            In a moment of emotional overload, the wisdom of children, singing, reminding us of all the most important things that truly matter, if we but listen. 

These disciples had had too much.  They’d felt all the feels.  And, now, they just needed a break.  And so they took it.

            Maybe we should also understand Jesus’s conversation with Peter differently than we often do?  Maybe Jesus isn’t shaming Peter.  Maybe Jesus simply wants Peter to realize that it is from an honest embrace of his own vulnerability and his failings that he’s going to be the best and most effective pastor and leader that he can be?

            I’m guessing Jesus was deeply aware of all the feelings that Peter was feeling, and Jesus is reminding him that it is those feelings which give us our power.

            The emotions that overwhelm and overload us are the source of our compassion, our agency, our strength.

            The other serendipity this week was that the next book up on my to-read stack was Tricia Hersey’s Rest Is Resistance.   I began reading it on Wednesday while eating lunch at the Crescent Moon, and it was also exactly what I needed in the moment.  It’s like the Spirit knows!

I’m still reading this one so I’m likely to have more insights from it in the future, but early on she writes:

We must see our bodies as a miracle, and a place of reverence where existing in exhaustion is not normal or acceptable.  The beauty of resting knows that we are blessed to have a body, to be chosen to be alive, to breathe, to make choices, and to proclaim that our bodies are our own, is a deep practice in care.  It is the beginning of a revolution, radical, and a resistance.

            One of the many voices this week saying “if you are emotionally overwhelmed, take a break, rest, relax.”  Breathe.  Go listen to birdsong (which the Washington Post recommended this week for its scientifically proven positive effects on mental health).  Taking a break when we are emotionally overloaded is one of the ways we love each other.  One of the ways we get in touch with the divine source of our strength.  Where we can meet Jesus, and find the sustenance we need.

            Rev. Sarah Lund, who spoke at this church many years ago when we hosted that first WISE Conference for mental health, has written a new resource for teens to support their mental and emotional health and well-being.  She entitled it the “Blessed Youth Survival Guide.”  And the prayer it ends with I’ve planned on using in our town hall today, but I realized that the prayer is also the best way to end this sermon on emotional overload:

You are amazing.
You are beautiful.

You are complex (in a good way).

You are a beloved human being.

Your brain is different and good.

The fact that you exist is a miracle and a dream come true.

You are here for a reason.

You may not know your reason yet, but trust me, it is a really good one.

Your life is important.

Getting better takes time.

Be patient and gentle with yourself.

You are more than your disability, disease, illness, or diagnosis.

It’s ok to be different.

It’s ok not to be ok for a while.

Your life matters to me.

Try your best.

Breathe.

Stay.


Testimony Opposing LB574

LB574 would ban gender-affirming care.  The Nebraska Medical Association, physicians, social workers, mental health professionals, suicide prevention organizations, business and religious leaders joined with many trans youth and their parents to oppose this legislation.  Here is the testimony I delivered.  The second page I handed to the committee was the letter from the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ opposing this bill and two others that would harm trans youth.

Testimony Opposing LB574

Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

Senior Minister, First Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Omaha

Just last week a mother in my congregation called me from the emergency room at Immanuel Hospital.  She was there with her trans daughter who had attempted to end her life.  The distraught mother kept talking about how awful society is to trans people.

I don’t know if the daughter was following the news and the debate over bills like this one.  I don’t know if the existence of this bill directly contributed to her suicide attempt.  But I do know that the climate of bigotry and discrimination to which a bill like this contributes was a factor.

So, I come to you today as a Christian pastor, who only last week cared for a family confronted by the need for gender-affirming care.  I’m asking you not to further burden good people of Christian faith with unnecessary obstacles and political controversy.  I’m asking you to uphold the dignity of the human person and to defend religious liberty and the freedom of conscience.

In my denomination, the United Church of Christ, descended from the Pilgrims and Puritans, we affirm that the beauty and blessedness of God's creation is present in all people.  We make a conscious and deliberate decision to celebrate the diversity of creation as uniquely embodied in people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+). We honor the sacredness of people's lives through extravagant welcome and unconditional affirmation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.   The mission statement of the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ proclaims: “to live into God’s extravagant welcome and advocate for justice. So that all know love, safety, belonging, and dignity.” 

In what I distributed you also have a letter from the Nebraska Conference of the United Church of Christ stating our religious opposition to this bill and all the clergy, congregations, and lay people who have also added their names to the letter.

This bill violates our Christian faith.  It violates the sacredness of God’s creation.  It is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This bill discriminates against my denomination and my congregation, threatening our religious liberty and freedoms of conscience. 

Please oppose LB574.


Testimony Opposing LB626

Testimony Opposing LB626

Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones

Senior Minister, First Central Congregational United Church of Christ of Omaha

A few years ago a family came to me for pastoral care.  The young mother, who had for a long time been hoping to become pregnant, finally had gotten pregnant, but her prenatal care had revealed that the child had severe deformities and defects.  Doctors told her that if the child was alive when born, then it would only live a short time unless a number of major surgeries were performed, and even if the surgeries were performed, the child would have likely live a very short time and with very little quality of life.

The family made the loving, parental decision that the most caring thing they could do was to terminate the pregnancy.  They were grieved about that decision, but felt it was right and good and loving.

What brought them into my pastoral office was their anger at what happened next.  When they made this parenting, health care decision, they were told by their physicians that they couldn’t provide the needed abortion, that they would have to seek abortion services from a different provider, and that they had a very short time in which to do so, otherwise Nebraska law would compel them to leave the state for this medical procedure. 

That’s why they were upset and angry.  What should have been their decision, weighing their moral values and parental care, and then making a health care choice, was instead a fraught, politicized controversy that added to their grief and pain.  That was a worse trauma.

So, I come to you today as a pastor, who has walked with families making these sorts of decisions, to ask you not to further burden good people with unnecessary obstacles and political controversy, but to instead trust and respect the dignity of the human person.  To grant parents the freedom to make moral, loving decisions, and not impose your political will upon them.  Violating their freedoms of conscience and religion.  Please oppose LB626.


The Wisdom of Your Body

The Wisdom of Your Body: Finding Healing, Wholeness, and Connection Through Embodied LivingThe Wisdom of Your Body: Finding Healing, Wholeness, and Connection Through Embodied Living by Hillary L. McBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent discussion of embodiment. McBride explores pain, disability, trauma, oppression, emotions, sex, etc. in well-written chapters that are insightful, moving, informative, and helpful. I've been recommending it to lots of people.

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Doing Theology in Pandemics

Doing Theology in PandemicsDoing Theology in Pandemics by Zachary Moon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a profound essay that opens this volume, Rita Nakashima Brock contends that the pandemic "created the conditions for an apocalypse, an unveiling of moral truth in the midst of the collapse of powerful malevolent systems."

She goes on to write about how we have all experienced moral injury during the pandemic and confrontations against racial injustice and police brutality. Her essay is the best theological reflection I've read yet on the pandemic.

The other excellent essay in this collection is Cody Sanders's "Feeling Our Way through an Apocalypse." He grapples with the emotions elicited from the end of the world as we know it. We care for our anger, fear, and sadness by cultivating wonder, gratitude, and grief, in community.

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What 'pro-life' really means

Today I was looking for something else and came across this old column I wrote for the Oklahoma Gazette when I was a newspaper columnist.  Seems rather relevant still in 2022.  Maybe even more relevant?  

This was the draft I submitted, but not the final published draft.  Sadly, my columns don't appear anymore on the Gazette website.  I do know that the editor didn't let me publish the phrase "state sponsored rape bill."

 

What “Pro-Life” Really Means

By Scott Jones

 

What we should really be afraid of is those who support governmental control of our bodies.  Don’t be fooled, because that’s what many of the falsely called “pro-life” members of our legislature are after.  It is their ideology that government can dictate to a person what they can and cannot do in matters of their own health.  

Last year’s Senate Bill 1878 made the ideology abundantly clear.  It is affectionately called the “state sponsored rape bill” by many because it forces women to undergo a medically unnecessary, invasive procedure where a vaginal instrument is inserted in order to perform an ultrasound, even it is against her wish and not recommended by her physician.

I’m sure many of you are tired of the demagoguery on this issue, which has now lasted for decades.  Particularly when the language used diverts from the real issue of creating a healthy civil society.

A healthy civil society is one in which people are free to make their own health decisions, not have them dictated by the government.  Genuine freedom also includes access to health care and the education to make healthy decisions.  These are areas in which central Oklahoma is seriously lacking.

The 2007 Vital Signs published by the United Way of Central Oklahoma highlights in its “trends to watch” the poor educational achievements of new mothers in Oklahoma County, measured by the percentage with a high school diploma.  26.7% of new mothers in the county do not have a high school diploma, which is over nine percentage points worse than the national average.  Vital Signs calls this measurement “one of the most important predictors of positive outcomes for children.”

Oklahoma ranks 44th in the nation for health care and 21% of Oklahoma County residents are uninsured.  In a wide array of measurements on health and access to health care, we rank low and trends are not improving.  Nor do most of our public schools offer comprehensive sex education.

The report states that 50.39% of live births in Oklahoma were the result of unintended pregnancies.  It is reasonable to conclude that the incredibly high incidence of unintended pregnancies partially results from the combination of poor access to both health care and comprehensive health and sex education?  

As even The Christian Century reported in 2005, the societies with the lowest abortion rates are precisely those with wider access to health care, comprehensive health and sex education, and greater resources for child care.  The societies with the highest actual abortion rates are those with the most legal restrictions.  In other words, you are either for legal or illegal abortion, there is no such thing as a society with no abortion.

If our legislature really valued life as anything more than an empty political slogan, then they would work diligently to improve access to health care, provide comprehensive sex education, and improve various social services.

The evidence is clear – a society that empowers individuals to make their own health decisions is a society which values life.  What we so often have here in Oklahoma is the exact opposite – an ideology of governmental control of our bodies which would rob us of our freedoms and our health.  That’s truly frightening.

Jones, who holds a Ph. D. in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, is pastor of the Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.

 


Reconciling Ourselves: On Consolation, Part 7

"The Good Death" is the title of Ignatieff's final chapter, focusing on the hospice pioneer Cicely Saunders.  Ignatieff argues that in her creation of hospice care, Saunders "helped create a new secular practice of consolation, crafted from nursing, psychology, pain management, and therapy."  One might also had chaplaincy.

Her key insight was "What the dying needed was to talk about their lives, to make sense of them, to forgive themselves and others, to reconcile themselves to the ending of it all."

In the Epilogue he writes about dealing with his own parent's deaths.  This was when he first learned consolation.  And what he learned is that it is "both a conscious process by which we seek meaning for our losses and at the same time a deeply unconscious undertaking, in the recesses of our souls, in which we recover hope.  It is the most arduous but also the most rewarding work we do, and we cannot escape it."

He wrote the book because he drew consolation from people who had themselves wrestled with suffering.  The examples of others reveal ways for us to keep going.

He closes with a meditation on Czeslaw Milosz from whom he experienced that "to feel consoled, to be reconciled to one's losses, to have come to terms with one's shame and regrets, and to feel, despite everything, alive to the beauty of life."  And this is not work we do once and are done.  It is "the work of a lifetime."

I hope after these dark years we've all experienced, you've found some consolation in my detailed exploration of this book, which I intentionally read here at the beginning of my sabbatical.  There is much to heal, learn, and grow from in what we've all experienced, and in what I've experienced in my personal life.  I hope to use this sacred time away as a chance to really focus on the future and the possibilities ahead, to be alive to what comes next.


The Weariness of the Self

The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary AgeThe Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age by Alain Ehrenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why in the last fifty years has depression become such a widespread illness? Ehrenberg explores that question. While much of the book details changing understandings in psychiatry and psychoanalysis, particularly with the advent of anti-depressants, his question is much broader. He determines that the rise of depression is a result in a changed understanding of the self. We have emerged from traditional societies where our roles were often defined for us. Now we have almost complete freedom to create our own lives. He argues this has caused the rise in depression, as many struggle with that freedom and the social impulse to keep up. Depression results from feeling of inadequacy and leads to an inability to function.

This book was referenced in a book I read in December, and I was so intrigued by these ideas that I ordered this to read for myself. I found it illuminating and thought provoking. I feel it advanced my understanding of some of the people in my life and myself.

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