Sunday, January 3, 2010


Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make use feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.
-Franz Kafka
The pastor referred to this quote in church today. His point was not as gloomy as the quote.

Lately, I have been thinking about how easy it is for us to self-medicate our aches instead of exploring them. Retail therapy, television, and Facebook are always an arm's length away. We are a generation which has grown accustomed to distracting ourselves from pain. As if not thinking about our loneliness or our lack of spiritual fulfillment or our frustrating jobs will magic it away.

What if these wounds are splinters instead of cuts? We bandage ourselves where it hurts and it helps for a while. But with every movement, though covered over at the surface, we feel the sharp fragments prodding the flesh underneath. It is a deep ebbing pain that makes plastering on a smile impossible when no one's looking.

The only way to be truly free of these splinters involves sharp instruments. To remove the bandages and cut away at good flesh to find and dig out the foreign objects that have buried themselves so deep over the years. This is a painful process, but it is the only way to freedom. We are only lucky enough not to cut blindly, but with the steady hand of a skilled Surgeon guiding each stroke of the knife.

For those who are struggling with difficult situations, I believe that there has to be some value in hanging on with every last breath. There is no circumstance without some shred of redemptive value. You are not alone. Just don't give up.