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The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain Paperback – August 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Scott Carins is the author of six collections of poetry including Compass of Affection,  and the memoir Short Trip to the Edge. His Poetry and nonfiction have been included in Best Spiritual American Writing and other anthologies. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, and The New Republic. He is professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press; 1st edition (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557255636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557255631
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 4.5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Scott Cairns is the author of eight collections of poetry, The Theology of Doubt, The Translation of Babel, Figures for the Ghost, Recovered Body, Philokalia, Compass of Affection: Poems New & Selected, Idiot Psalms, and Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems. 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 for 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. He also serves on the poetry faculty of the Seattle Pacific University low-residency MFA program in writing. 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, and a new, expanded edition of Short Trip to the Edge will be released in 2016. 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Listening on August 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Scott Cairns has authored a new book entitled The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain. Its sudden appearance in the mail was timely: I had just been reading about the "protest theism" of writers like Twain and Melville and was preparing for the funeral of one of my uncles.

The small book considers the purpose of suffering in its capacity to awaken us to certain realities; namely, the illusion of control, the grace of having the self "stripped away", the gift of being alive to God and alive to life and the beauty of a heart that is turned toward others. Scott borrows from the wisdom of poets and ascetics to discover what can be learned in the land of suffering. He gives special attention to the insights of Elder Zosimas in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. For the past fifteen years, Scott has been in the habit of rereading the book at the end of the school year.

Even as Scott describes what is wrong with the world, he ends his essay by probing the mystery of God's way of being in the world, a presence that is restorative, aimed at recovering bodies and repairing persons. He writes,
"The God-created world is an exceedingly wild place. Its weathers and its very makeup - its famously cranky geology - remain notoriously unpredictable. Bad things happen to good people; good things happen to bad. And even setting aside the simply bad, there is also no shortage of downright evil, from which the good do not appear to be uniformly protected...

What kind of God is this?

Whether or not you think the world was initially created as the shaky sphere is is - a notoriously unstable crust skidding over a roiling swirl of molten rock - there's no arguing that it isn't something of a crapshoot now.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bill Barto VINE VOICE on November 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book-length essay by the gifted author and poet Scott Cairns. The subtitle of the book is "Finding Purpose in Pain," and actually describes the theme of the book a bit better than the title. I would go so far as to suggest that this book is actually a broader meditation on the meaning of life from an Orthodox Christian perspective. If I understand him fully, the author is largely contending that "our deepest consolation [in our lives and in the face of affliction and suffering] lies in consciously experiencing our mystical membership in the body of Christ." To paraphrase E.M. Forster, we need "only connect" to God and one another and the purpose in pain (and our lives) will be had. And God is always closer than we think; indeed, we are already connected to Him and everyone else, but we need to recognize and accept our connectedness before our person can be repaired. As you might gather, this is not your typical "self-help" book! That being said, the prose is a delight, and the author marshals support for his positions in a wonderful selection of quotes from (primarily) Orthodox thinkers and novelists (much from Dostoevsky and Isaac the Syrian) and also includes a number of his own poems as further illustrations. Notwithstanding the decidedly Orthodox perspective of the author and many of the authors quoted in the book, I believe that this work could be read and appreciated by anyone who is open to the possibility that the Christian faith has something to say about the meaning of life and the problems presented by pain, suffering, and death. This one is a keeper!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Fred Hayward on August 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No doubt as a North American my thinking about suffering is a bit off. Chances are (considering how pampered I am compared to the rest of the world) that I may need an attitude adjustment. Actually, in my case it is a sure thing. Thankfully, there are some whom God has gifted to speak even to me, a non-linear artist type, and for that I am grateful for Mr. Cairns.

I've been slowly making my way through Scott Cairn's little essay over the past few months entitled: The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain. I finally finished this rich morsel while I was on vacation in Denver.

It is a tiny book. But don't let it's size fool you. This is a work of art that deserves reading, pondering, re-reading, discussion, and most importantly of all: living out. It is beginning to transform my way of thinking and acting about pain and suffering.

And well it should! What Scott has accomplished in this little masterpiece (the book measures 4" x 6" and is only 114 pages long) is a distillation of Christian thought on suffering down through the ages. Being a western poet who has joined the Eastern Orthodox Church allows him to sift through both eastern and western thought on the issue and use it to paint a portrait that infuses both.

One would think this might cause the painting to be blurry and broad stroked, but such is not the case. The portrait is intricate, beautiful and done with fine detail. Quoting from scripture, novels, church fathers and mothers, and his own poetry creates a beautiful and potent work that takes my breath away, fills me with hope and helps me face the grim reality of the work I have ahead.
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