The Open Wound: Trauma, Identity, and Community Kindle Edition
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While building its case, the Open Wound explores many aspects of trauma theory, from the basic concepts of what trauma is and how trauma affects and changes its subjects, to the issues involved in media representation of trauma, how large-scale traumas are exploited to serve political ends, and how trauma affects time. I found the chapter on acceptance of death and dying ("Our Debt to the Dead") inspired, like a healing balm to the soul, especially the section entitled "The Soul's Swoon, Jean-Luc Nancy and The Prayer of Death" which is almost poetry. It offers a way to think about death that allows us to let go, allowing the dead to be dead, gently honoring and protecting them in their silence, and also to prepare ourselves to let go and ultimately surrender into our own deaths.
Dr. Seeburger weaves together an enormous array of contemporary thinkers from trauma studies, philosophy, literature, religion, and other fields. He explores the relation between trauma and sovereignty in contemporary philosophical/theological notions of a wounded, "limping" or powerless God, tied in with ancient Orthodox Christian notions of "kenosis" or the self-emptying of the wounded Christ on the cross. He writes movingly on the meaning of the crucifixion itself, that ultimate traumatic wounding unto death that gives birth to a radically new life in community, where Jesus' open wounds remain open, representing the ongoing reality of trauma in our communities today. Always deeply concerned with protecting human dignity, he draws on John Paul Yoder's notion that "what Jesus renounced is not first of all violence, but the compulsiveness of purpose that leads the strong to violate the dignity of others." His vision of "trauma community" rejects compulsion and embraces each human being as s/he is.
The author, Dr. Francis (Frank) Seeburger, recently retired after forty-one years as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver, where for ten years he was chair of the Philosophy Department and where he served two terms as Director of the Joint University of Denver-Iliff School of Theology Ph.D. Program. His other published works include Emotional Literacy; Addiction and Responsibility (both published under the name Francis F. Seeburger) and God, Prayer, Suicide and Philosophy.
Seeburger's scholarship and philosophical thinking are unmatched among North American thinkers, and he reveals himself to be more "radical" than any of the kitsch "Christo"-Marxists that Americans can only half-digest. For example, after an innovative study of a gamut as wide as modern novelists such as Cormac McCarthy and Faulkner, thinkers such as Jean-Luc Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe, the writings of Holocaust torture victims and survivors such as Jean Améry, and studies on disaster communities, Seeburger summarizes emphatically that, "The truth of trauma is living in the irrelevancy of all relations of power" (59). At the same time he affirms: "The truth of trauma is living in community...communities in which aid is extended by all to all, and in which no challenging of anyone's claim to aid occurs, no demanding that aid claimants prove their need, certify their disabilities, or document their qualifications for receiving assistance. The community called forth by trauma is in principle universal....needs nothing against which to define itself, since it needs no 'definition,' no 'identity,' of its own in the first place" (60-61).
I have seen the fruit of the work that stands forth in this book, in classrooms, in churches and conversations. This book itself is a work of healing, to the extent that it speaks what we all need to hear about ourselves; it is the outline of a practice close to the sense Heraclitus must have had in mind in his word Akea: lulling, silence, healing. This is the kind of book that reminds us again that philosophy, like Socrates lived and taught it, is a practice for dying. This is the kind of book that will keep philosophy alive.