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Short Trip to the Edge: Where Earth Meets Heaven--A Pilgrimage Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 20, 2007

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, February 20, 2007
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (February 20, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0060843225
  • ASIN: B001PO6ATA
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,529,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a former Baptist who passed through the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches on his way to the Orthodox Church, Cairns, a poet and professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Missouri, offers readers a unique and often compelling perspective on life as a pilgrim on Mount Athos, Orthodoxy's holy mountain. Recounting three visits to the mystical bastion of male monasticism and another trip to an Orthodox monastery in Arizona, Cairns writes transparently of his struggles to grow in the life of prayer as he searches, mostly in vain, for a spiritual father who can help him. His accounts of traveling to the various monasteries on Mount Athos are earthy and blessedly not saccharine, yet beautifully accented with descriptions of times when he was particularly moved by an experience of worship. Especially touching is his narrative of the pilgrimage he makes with his son, Benjamin, who affords a fresh perspective on all that his father has previously seen and related. Cairns includes several of his poems, which serve as well-placed enhancements to the text. His open attitude in explaining matters of faith makes this book suitable for a broad audience of readers on spiritual journeys. (Mar.)
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“While highly personal, this book provides at the same time a revealing insight into the meaning of Mount Athos.” (Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia, author of The Orthodox Way)

“This is a gem of a book, a lovely, funny, touching account of a poet’s search for wisdom...” ” (Philip Zaleski, coauthor of Prayer: A History and editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing series)

“[Cairns] opens his heart and ours to the holy mysteries of his Orthodox faith.” (Rodger Kamenetz, Professor of English and Religious Studies, Louisiana State University and author of The Jew in the Lotus)

“Scott Cairns is the ideal guide -- relaxed, invitingly conversational [...] but always evoking the awe that these mysteries deserve.” (Frederica Mathewes-Green, author of Facing East)

“A skilled poet on an arduous prayer pilgrimage...” (Eugene Peterson, author of The Message)

“Enlivening, intelligent, occasionally rich in irony but never cynical...” (Pam Houston, author of Sight Hound) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Scott Cairns is the author of seven collections of poetry, The Theology of Doubt, The Translation of Babel, Figures for the Ghost, Recovered Body, Philokalia, Compass of Affection: Poems New & Selected, and Idiot Psalms. With W. Scott Olsen, he co-edited The Sacred Place, a collection of prose and verse celebrating the intersections of landscape and ideas of the holy. He wrote the libretti for The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, an oratorio composed by JAC Redford, and A Melancholy Beauty, an oratorio composed by Georgi Andreev. His poetry and essays have been included in Best Spiritual Writing, Best American Spiritual Writing, The Pushcart Prize XXVI, Upholding Mystery (Oxford, 1997), The Best of Prairie Schooner, and Shadow & Light, among other anthologies. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, The New Republic, Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, Spiritus, Tiferet, Western Humanities Review, and many other journals. He has taught American literature, poetry writing, and poetics courses at Westminster College, University of North Texas, Old Dominion University, and at University of Missouri, where he is currently Professor of English. In 1993, he founded the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, and served as its series editor from 1993 through 2006. In 2007, his spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, was published by HarperSanFrancisco and his translations and adaptations, Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life, was published by Paraclete Press; the paperback edition, Endless Life, was recently released. With Jeff Johnson and Roy Salmond, he recorded, Parable, a CD of recent poems. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, and was named the Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in English at the University of Missouri in 2009. He received the Denise Levertov Award in 2014.

Customer Reviews

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Scott Cairns is a happy exception!
Finally, I hate to say it as I expect it will make me sound too parochial, but there's a point where there is just a bit too much Greek.
Chad Davies
If Gehenna will end because it its a consequence of sin, we do not know for sure.
David Robles

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Gail H. Cramer on March 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Since I am a woman, I cannot personally reap the spiritual benefits of a pilgrimage to Mt. Athos. However, Scott Cairns' account of his visits to the Holy Mountain during his sabbatical year as a professor at the Univ. of Missouri allowed me to vicariously experience what it must be like for an Orthodox convert to go there. He describes the good, the bad, and the ineffably divine of what it is like for a modern-day pilgrim to pay a visit to the heart of Orthodox monasticism. The focus of his pilgrimage is his endeavor to find a spiritual father who can guide him in how to grow closer to God, specifically through the Jesus Prayer.

Cairns deftly interweaves the physical realities and legalities ("Let that be a lesson for somebody") of getting there and getting around while, at the same time, describing his impressions and feelings about finally arriving at The Mountain. His gifts as a poet allow him to find the perfect word to capture his experience or the description of his environment.

There are humorous but instructive moments, such as when he and his friend Nick decide to walk to a monastery rather than ride in a vehicle, or when he describes a pilgrim he calls "the sheriff" who demands that everyone follow the rules while eating. There are also glimpses of the meeting of Heaven and Earth on Mt. Athos as Cairns describes kissing the warm left hand of St. Mary Magdalene, the spice-scented foot of St. Anne (accompanied by "a curious sweetness, a warming of the heart") and the fragrant brow of the skull of St. Andrew.

I was helped in my own spiritual journey by Cairns' complete honesty. He describes the time when he was finally able to have a moment with an elder and feels like he made a mistake by asking the wrong question.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chad Davies on October 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In his book, A Short Trip to the Edge, Scott Cairns takes the reader through a series of journeys to the Orthodox holy site and monastic sanctuary Mt. Athos (with a brief side trip to a monastary in Arizona also detailed). The book is a record of Dr. Cairns' journey on two levels. One aspect of the book describes his travels on a purely physical level; the places he goes, the people he encounters, the things he sees and the obstacles he overcomes. Intertwined within this narrative is also the spiritual journey he takes in order to discover how to live a life of prayer and how this is different than having a prayer life. In both attempts the author sets out to record his authentic journey and his honesty and candor are refreshing as is the simplicity with which he tells his story. Unlike many works on Athonite spiritual life or prayer life in the Orthodox tradition, this book tries to keep things on a level that is accessable to someone who is not a monastic.

The first aspect of the book is relatively successful in conveying the author's experience of gong to a place as different from the rest of the world as Mt. Athos while dealing with the intrusions the world inevitably makes on a place it deems has having something it values, even if it keeps that thing at arm's distance. I found the simply humanity of this part of the narrative refreshing enjoyed Cairn's stories of meeting with other pilgrams on the roads and with sharing coffee and tea with the monks of the mountains. Both brought home the theme that this is a place where heaven and earth intersect in very real and powerful ways.

In weaving in the second aspect, Dr. Cairns attempts to introduce us to the traditions and ideas of Eastern prayer and spirituality.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Glynn Young VINE VOICE on January 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Scott Cairns is an accomplished poet and an English professor at Mizzou, where he teaches modern and contemporary American literature and creative writing. He's also an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and he writes about his faith. His "Love's Immensity," in fact, is a collection of translations and adaptations of writings of various Christian apostles, disciples and saints on faith and prayer, from Saint Paul to St. Therese of Lisieux, and written as poems.

"Short Trip to the Edge" is the account of four pilgrimages Cairns made with the hope of finding a spiritual father to guide him in a life of prayer - two to the monasteries and "sketes" of Mount Athos, one to an Orthodox monastery in Arizona, and the fourth back to Mount Athos, this time with his teenage son. To join Cairns on his journey is to discover some of the most revered places in the Orthodox church, to see how seekers and others undertake a pilgrimage, and to watch as they and the monks and priests leading them participate in worship.

It's a very different kind of Christian faith from what I've experienced. It's a tribute to Cairns' writing that I found myself sitting alongside him, in my own "stall," listening to the chants of the monks and standing in line with the other pilgrims to receive the Eucharist, and then afterward to join in venerating the icons. (And veneration of the icons is something almost alien to this evangelical Presbyterian.
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