After a few hours in Wollongong

Wollongong, NSW

Where have I seen these faces before; in a dream after I had prayed the Akathyst to the Holy Mother; in an aeroplane on my way to Estonia; double espresso; vegetable fritters with corn salsa; a small glass of cold water; Katina and the little ones in Tathra; I miss them after an hour; but now I can write one-hundred and forty-four words; a dark haired woman with a column of silver rings rubs her left eye; Geraldine is that you; a little child is crying; a young Mother bends down to whisper into her big ear; it doesn’t help; keep focused Michael, confess to the black wall; “[w]e need to search for our soul” (Carl Jung); the people’s heads are bent like a crooked elbow; mesmerized by their gleaming mobiles; wasting hours which turn into lost years; “I won’t have coffee with you,” Sophia once said to me; “you can’t kill time”; she was usually right; I will need to start for home soon; it is still raining; “Here Comes the Rain Again (Eurythmics); thirst will never lie; “I thirst” the GodMan cries out (Jn. 19:28); dig for water and not for oil; I should translate Stephen’s poem; all in good time; we must keep our promises; a girl in white jeans runs across to the escalator; a good metaphor to note down; she has forgotten her name somewhere on the floor below; where have I seen these faces before; candles and waxes; boiled cinnamon; paraffin; let him who is without song cast the first stone; Josephine Baker, the Black Pearl; “Art Deco”; playing truant in the spaces between the parables; you needn’t have taken from me; freely I’d given to you; your response in expanses of pain; a long walk into the nearest city; press your bleeding nose on the window pane; “But the beauty is in the walking, we are betrayed by destinations” (Gwyn Thomas); Wollongong Central; His Boy Elroy; Jamaica Blue; Max Brenner; a handsome old man with an aluminium walking cane; he is taking his first steps; not long from now he will be born again; I still miss you Father; I wish we had kissed one last time; I was in the clouds when you were treading earth; “It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart, not by the reason” (Pascal, Pensees); Kant from the purely rational structure to actual moral content; has it anything to do with thinking about one’s own thinking; surveillance cameras everywhere; who doesn’t understand; Big Brother inside your head coming soon; DARPA brain implant program; Eric Arthur Blair; Philip Kindred Dick; Margaret Eleanor Atwood; you are one of the latter day prophets Roger Clarke; the young man with the spiky hair behind the counter calls for Tony; we all know what he likes to drink; anonymity lost for the pleasure of a coffee; Argus Panoptes; a heavy-duty headache like a tight tourniquet; Panadeine Forte versus Panamax; too much noise everywhere; but sometimes it can be soothing; like the white noise in the Kiama Leisure Centre; during the Paleozoic era dragonflies grew to ‘monster size’; if a dragonfly cannot fly it will starve; dragonflies mate in mid-air like the clouds; they will divide us into groups; the poets will have to be silenced; only they know the real names behind things; “It’s the words that sing, they soar and descend” (Pablo Neruda); another drink please; a long black; and a banana & coconut crepe; I am still here; where have I seen these faces before; they ricochet like a Jack Storm reflective mirror; hackers breach US nuclear plants; Battle for Mosul; G20 Hamburg; “Round/ Like a circle in a spiral/ Like a wheel within a wheel”  (Bergman & Bergman); The Persuaders; Hawaii Five-0; Mission Impossible; in Greece when I was a little boy they were repeats; like the regime of the Colonels; dictatorships same old, same old; truth and political realism not compatible; Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527);  there was nothing new to ‘shock and awe’; except for the finger on the button; make sure there is petrol in the car; petroleum from the Greek “rock” and “oil”; separation technology; philosophers must keep their feet warm; Schopenhauer wearing a wool beanie with earflaps; my Mother-in-Law knits fabulous woollen jumpers; a family of four sit at the next table; the Father staring into space; the Mother trying to get his attention; I smile; life continues; joyful sorrow; a group of grandmothers; a wisdom; once they too, played with baby dolls; King Arthur; the wizard Merlin; Geoffrey of Monmouth; my little Jeremy is so brave; our Eleni sings like a nightingale; George is capable of so much he needs to find his way; “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or to usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky” (Rabindranath Tagore); where have I seen these faces before; 3.49 PM; in an hour or so they will close; I love you Katina; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnpRZHqqPq8; you are my enduring truth; I have lost so many friends; where have they gone; we must allow each other to grow; I am a stranger here; I have always been a stranger; what does ‘perfect stranger’ mean; sometimes our cherished Dylan T., repetition is fine; you were too harsh on Tennyson; stress, accentuation, force; we are all Pentecostal to one degree or another; we speak in tongues; “mia pista apo fwsforo me dwdeka diadromous” (Lina Nikolakopoulou); you make me smile when I could almost split my sides; don’t confuse the Jesus Prayer with OCD; Saint Sophrony thank you for caring after me; Tolleshunt Knights; Tiptree the scent of jams trapped in rimed snowflakes; the tongue is a mighty organ; “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts” (James 3:5); it begins as a bud; Powell & Pressburger; The Tales of Hoffmann (1951); Offenbach would have been pleased, methinks; the family next to me still here; the Father like those above, bent over the mobile; the Mother comforting the infant; life goes on; I smile, once again; my long black done; fractal patterns; the Mandelbrot set; Zeno of Elea; Lake Baikal; southern Siberia; largest freshwater lake in the world; Blade Runner (1982); Ridley Scott; genetically engineered humanoid replicants; Archytas of Tarentum; architect of robotics; the bird and the rattle; 64 squares in an 8x8 grid; opening, middlegame, endgame; Benjamin Franklin “The Morals of Chess” (1786); will the bookstores be open; how beautiful a real book between the hands; at home beneath my lamp Dumas’ The Three Musketeers; I catch another name Bethany; it is a wonderful name; she has ordered a mocaccino; they have a picture of my pelican at the fish shop down by the Kiama wharf; such a proud and beautiful animal it was; the last picture I took before the camera dropped into the water; Henri Cartier-Bresson; Steve McCurry; Diane Arbus; two young friends walk past hand-in-hand; they are laughing and licking on ice creams; one is a girl with a short haircut and a large green bag; idealism for a season is good; [Donald] Bruce Dawe; “I would never want to come back, knowing I could never be this lucky twice”; Australian poets have always been so hugely underrated; 25 minutes have passed; it is all relative like an itch behind the ear; the days go quicker now; the nights can take a little longer; “Only because you loved me I was born, so my life was given” (Maria Polydouri); triptychs; Francis Bacon (1909-1992); images reveal themselves “in series” he said;  titles from Ballarat International Foto Biennale (2017); Bones: A Body Of Work; Peaches And Scream; Hidden In Plain Sight;  Edmund de Waal; my third reading of The White Road a pilgrimage of sorts; “[t]o make something so white and true and perfect, that the world around it is thrown into shadows”; 200 Crown Street; Princes Hwy; Smith Street; writing is difficult; poetry is even more difficult; committing oneself to reality and not to the absurd, even harder; identity and language are never too far one from the other; like Duchamp and modern art; greatly misunderstood [he was] and for this reason, the cult of vulgarity; shadows are difficult to escape; like fingers dipped deep in honey; all surfaces are covered; I must not drink alcohol today; “[w]hat begins with pain, ends with pain”; a great truth dear Gabor M.; we all lead double lives; that’s not the real problem; the only thing which really matters is the outcome of this titanic tension; look for saints in their eyes; ignore the devils for now; Hannibal ante portas; okay, that’s it; pay the bill; and make sure to wipe your mouth; goodnight, Little Briar Rose.

Life changing talks with a song and a poem to boot

Used discerningly YouTube, the video-sharing website founded in 2005, is a truly incredible reservoir of stockpiled knowledge no more than a click away. The vital thing is discerningly for like many things in the online world this too can become quickly addictive. It is not difficult to stray in this electronically fuelled atmosphere, particularly with such a visual and captivating medium as film. It can become overwhelmingly seductive. Otherwise it is indeed a marvellous place to visit. And so what we hear about “the good and bad sides of YouTube” is without doubt true.

Elsewhere I have shared some favourite pieces of music. Here I would like to share a sample of life changing talks I will turn to. I will visit these downloads when I need an additional reminder that tomorrow is another day where new and exceptional things can happen. That even the next hour is full of great possibilities and salvation from despair. I am sure you will find some of these very special YouTube talks helpful if not for yourselves, then at least for someone near and dear to you. These profound presentations touch on various dimensions of life and the shared wisdom of the presenters can benefit us even if this might only mean becoming a little more compassionate and understanding ourselves. The presentations below have at least some very significant things in common: (i) The speakers have themselves experienced the deepest aspects of the journey which they describe and [like all “wounded healers”] have experienced the ‘wound’ themselves, (ii) they are not asking for your money or selling you a ‘secret’, (iii) self-realization and affirmative behaviour begin with a brutal self-assessment of why we find ourselves engaging in destructive behaviour; (iv) once the problem which is hurting us is realized there is set into action a hard-nosed plan and a fierce determination to see the resolution for change through.

These points are summarised best perhaps by the physician and addiction expert, the Hungarian-born Canadian Gabor Maté: “Something else is possible and you are worth that possibility.” Muniba Mazari, the inspirational Pakistani artist and motivational speaker, tells us how that possibility might be entered into: “Behind every inspirational picture there is an untold story of constant pain, persistent effort, and determination.” We do not have to agree with everything we hear in these talks, and in some places we might noticeably diverge, but there is too much truth and loads of sweet honey here to at least not stop for a while and to consider both the implications and the possibilities.

And a song and a poem, Leonard Cohen, Constantine P. Cavafy

A small note on Mount Athos

Mount Athos or the Holy Mountain as it is often referred to, is the centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism.[1] Occupying the greater part of the Athos Peninsula in Halkidiki it is an autonomous polity in the north of Greece comprising of twenty imposing monasteries and a number of other smaller monastic settlements. There is evidence of Christian monastic life on the mount since at least the fourth century, and if not earlier.[2] Mount Athos [Athos the name of one of the Gigantes from Greek mythology] is dedicated to the All Holy Theotokos, the Mother of God, though paradoxically no woman is permitted to set foot on its grounds. This rule is strictly followed and is referred to as the ‘avaton’.[3] Young men come here to grow old mastering the art of unseen warfare to then die in anonymity and solitude. In so doing they dedicate their lives to God and pray for the salvation of the world.

“The Lord loves all people, but he loves those that seek Him even more. To His chosen ones the Lord gives such great grace that for love they forsake the whole earth, the whole world, and their souls burn with desire that all people might be saved and see the glory of the Lord.” (Saint Silouan the Athonite)

A large number of these religious are of high intellect and not few have left behind successful professional careers. They are doctors, engineers, musicians, teachers, philosophers, theologians, lawyers, scientists, artists, former police and army officers, and whatever else we might imagine. Some, it is true, are daydreamers and romantics. Others were criminals who have served their time or men who have lost everything to addiction except for hope. The monks here spend most of their day and night attending to the divine services or fulfilling their diaconate or alone in their cells with long prayer ropes made of knotted beads of wool practising the Jesus Prayer otherwise known as the prayer of the heart.[4] The day for the Athonite monk begins at sunset. To attempt to evaluate their vocation through the eyes of logic alone is to miss almost everything and to understand little. One of Aristotle’s truest revelations is that happiness is not just a feeling or sensation, but is the quality of the whole life.[5] The dumbfounding thing is the great majority of these men, for admittedly there are some sad and tragic exceptions, are profoundly joyful and possess an inner peace, a tranquillity of spirit which does radiate visibly from their presence. They are like ghosts from another world with obscure clues and tip-offs for those who journey to visit them in their spiritual ‘hide-out’. But be prepared for these angelomorphic presences are well versed in the game of ‘hide n’ seek’ and it is they who will find you. They are black clad rebels against the established order of decay and corruption who embrace the reality of death together with its promise of transfiguration…of whom the world was not worthy –wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Heb. 11:38)

I would visit Athos twice and both times with the dreadful feeling that I was one of those ill-fated seeds from the parable of the sower. Sown on rocky ground and scorched. (Mat. 3:8) On the first of these occasions I was still a layperson and student at the Aristotelian, and then a few years later I would return as an ordained clergyman. We go on pilgrimages and visit monasteries for different reasons. Some of us go looking for spiritual counsel; for redemption and for a fresh start; to confess our sins; to escape from our past; to re-new old promises or to make new ones; to learn the fundamentals of prayer. In the end it is simple enough, the ongoing quest for “meaningfulness”.

But do not go anywhere looking specifically for God, or for that once in a life-time ‘religious experience’. It is one of the great mistakes and most of us will make it, just like when we routinely connect beauty to goodness. The psalmist’s counsel is not without its good reason, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) However, it is the doctrine of Creation that we cannot escape from. Depending on how we understand this teaching and respond to its far-reaching implications, it will largely determine what we learn of the Creator and ourselves when we set out on the journey which might very well lead to Athos or to other places where prayer fills the night skies as if pieces of flickering diamond.

…as I go walkabout the invigorating salt air mixed with the aroma of wild unpicked flowers refreshes my body and spirit. To my right a mythical landscape of undulating peaks and steep ravines which threaten at any moment to spill into the brooding Aegean Sea below. An hour earlier in a distant skete… “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (Ps.51:1)… I was awash in the scents of exotic Arabian incense and burning beeswax…

Good Lord, how desperately I have missed these wonderful worlds.

 

[1] Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, The Orthodox Church, (Penguin Books: England), 1993, pp. 129-132.

[2] Graham Speake, Mount Athos: Renewal in Paradise, (Yale University Press: New Haven), 2002.

[3] https://orthodoxwiki.org/Mount_Athos

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Prayer-Bishop-Kallistos-Ware/dp/1860828930/and+jesus+prayer

[5] http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/

Religion, Science & Technology: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective

Available from Amazon.com here and other leading bookstores.

Description

An interview with Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia on the interplay of religion, science and technology from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.

Metropolitan Kallistos was Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford University for 35 years, and speaks here with M.G. Michael and Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong Australia on key issues, such as whether science and religion are in conflict, technology's impact on the practice of religion, responsible innovation, transhumanism, human enhancement and medical prosthesis.

Metropolitan Kallistos responds to questions posed by sociotechnical systems researchers Michael and Michael, such as: are science and religion in conflict? Are there limits to innovation? Is religious faith threatened by technology? What if machines were to achieve artificial intelligence?

Metropolitan Kallistos provides a sober critique of topics in technology and society, answering twenty questions, and giving readers of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to reflect on technological trajectories, past and present.

Theological terms such as "image and likeness", the Incarnation, tradition, and omniscience are addressed, as are socioethical concepts of judgement, freedom, morality, and values.

The well-known story of the Tower of Babel from the Book of Genesis, also serves as a backdrop in discussions related to scientific enquiry, the creation of new technology, engineering and hubris.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with invention, for the faithful the creative genius is a gift from God to be nurtured, to be used to sustain and enhance life. It becomes a significant matter however, if humans or animals in the process of technological innovation at invention, commercialisation or diffusion, are misused for experimental purposes and not shown proper respect.

In only a way we have come to expect from Metropolitan Kallistos- logical, eloquent and witty- he summates so accurately: "Now, a machine however subtle does not feel love, does not pray, does not have a sense of the sacred, a sense of awe and wonder. To me these are human qualities that no machine, however elaborate, would be able to reproduce. You may love your computer but your computer does not love you."

Although this book is a mere thirty-six pages in length, it stands as an excellent guide on helping consumers navigate through their own moral decisions with respect to modern technology.

Religion, Science and Technology can be read cover to cover in an hour. It can serve as a guide for further enquiry, especially for students in theology, philosophy, social science, and of course, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It can also serve as a thought-provoking introduction to the branch of the social implications of technology for any reader interested in futurism.

Michael and Michael have spent the last 15 years collaborating on a variety of technology and society issues, this book is volume 1 in a new series dedicated to this field of study. For further details see www.mgmichael.com and www.katinamichael.com.

Author Information

About the author:
Born Timothy Ware in Bath, Somerset, England, Metropolitan Kallistos was educated at Westminster School (to which he had won a scholarship) and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a Double First in Classics as well as reading Theology. In 1958, at the age of 24, he embraced the Orthodox Christian faith (having been raised Anglican), traveling subsequently throughout Greece, spending a great deal of time at the Monastery of St. John the Theologian in Patmos. He also frequented other major centers of Orthodoxy such as Jerusalem and Mount Athos. In 1966, he was ordained to the priesthood and was tonsured as a monk, receiving the name Kallistos. In the same year, he became a lecturer at Oxford, teaching Eastern Orthodox Studies, a position which he held for 35 years until his retirement. In 1979, he was appointed to a Fellowship at Pembroke College, Oxford, and in 1982, he was consecrated to the episcopacy as a titular bishop with the title Bishop of Diokleia, appointed to serve as the assistant to the bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain. Despite his elevation, Kallistos remained in Oxford and carried on his duties both as the parish priest of the Oxford Greek Orthodox community and as a lecturer at the University. Since his retirement in 2001, Kallistos has continued to publish and to give lectures on Orthodox Christianity, traveling widely. On March 30, 2007, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elevated the Diocese of Diokleia to Metropolis and Bishop Kallistos to Titular Metropolitan of Diokleia.

katinaandmichael.jpg

About the co-authors:
MG Michael and Katina Michael have been formally collaborating on technology and society issues since 2002. MG Michael holds a PhD in theology and Katina Michael in information and communication technology. Together they hold eight degrees in a variety of disciplines including Philosophy, Linguistics, Ancient History, Law and National Security. MG Michael is an honorary associate professor in the School of Computing and Information Technology at the University of Wollongong, and Katina Michael is a professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences in the same institution, where she is also the Associate Dean (International). Katina is the editor-in-chief of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, and senior editor of IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine. Michael and Katina reside in the Illawarra region in Australia with their three children. 

Publishing Details

Publication Date: Dec 20 2016
ISBN/EAN13: 1741282632 / 9781741282634
Page Count: 36
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 5.5" x 8.5"
Language: English
Color: Full Color
Related Categories: Religion / Religion & Science

All proceeds of the sale of this book will be donated to the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (IOCS) in Cambridge, Britain.

Pastoral experience and the practise of compassion

“Compassion is born when we discover in the center of our own existence not only that God is God and man is man, but also that our neighbor is really our fellow man.” (Henri Nouwen)

Many times I would be humbled if not completely heartbroken by my pastoral experience and it was this practical expression of the priesthood which often gave meaning and dimension to my calling. It was an education into the human condition not taught in institutions of higher learning and only occasionally captured in literature dealing with loss and suffering. It is difficult, if not impossible to be taught compassion. It is like a naturally good singing voice, you either have it or you do not. To be confronted head-on with absolute loss, some of this sudden and violent, some of it slow and agonizing, was a fast and hard lesson into the reality of unfathomable pain and the dreadfulness of death.

The one thing I could not accept even from the start of my little ministry was the ‘pious’ response to death, and I did try hard to avoid it. I am sure, however, that even with the best intentions I was not always successful. It was above all painful to listen to indefensible nonsense when it involved the death of a child when the words came from the mouth of a priest who should have known better, “A. is now with God, the Lord needed another angel.”  This is not the loving Creator of things both “seen and unseen” but little more than a cosmic psychopath. C.S. Lewis reflected with brutal honesty on the heavy grief of losing his beloved wife:

“It is hard to have patience with people who say ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter. I look up at the night sky. Is anything more certain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died. She is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?”[1]

Mother Maria of Paris writing agonizingly and yet without the abandonment of hope, after the death of her beloved child:

“Into the black, yawning grave fly all hopes, plans, habits, calculations and, above all, meaning: the meaning of life… Meaning has lost its meaning, and another incomprehensible Meaning has caused wings to grow at one’s back… And I think that anyone who has had this experience of eternity, if only once; who has understood the way he is going, if only once; who has seen the One who goes before him, if only once- such a person will find it hard to turn aside from this path: to him all comfort will seem ephemeral, all treasure valueless, all companions unnecessary, if amongst them he fails to see the One Companion, carrying his Cross.”[2]

It goes without saying, I do not hold the answer, but I have made some reasonable peace with the hard reality of loss both in the context of my own faith and in the discernible movement of transfiguring love.[3] Like many of us, I too have experienced profound loss, and like most of us, it has for a season come close to paralysing me. I have yet to completely come to grips with the passing away of one side of our entire family or my darling Katina’s four miscarriages. I spoke of ‘transfiguring’ love, for this has been the implication and consequence of Christ’s own death and how from that darkest day in our human history, came the greatest solace to the human race, that death is not the end.[4] But this belief founded in a religious faith does not exclude those who are not religious, for the underlying lesson, the ‘meaningfulness’ of the resurrection [even if we should only accept it as a metaphor] is that death does not mean inertia. It is a movement and a response [both for the living and dead] from one condition into an other. There is hope for a better tomorrow, and should we endure through the dark night, there will come a time when at least something of our suffering, will make some sense. As impossible as it is to accept when pain has no words, a time of solace will come. And this ‘dealing’ will arrive for each one of us differently, at a different time and in a different way. For suffering is almost always an intensely personal experience. Even if in the meantime our loss is to be redeemed no more than with our dignity in the face of an overwhelming blackness, and our refusal to be fully broken.

My brave young friend Leo

I have been blessed to have encountered genuinely courageous souls, amazed at the vast and often immeasurable endurance of the human spirit. Hospitals and grave-yards are the unadulterated universities of our world. It is in these places of unmistakeable reality we can measure ourselves and learn to heal and to forgive. I met Leo when I was still in the early stages of my ministry, starry-eyed and believing that I could make a difference. I would often make unannounced visits at hospitals and do not remember ever being turned away. In a pocket to my cassock I kept a carefully folded piece of white paper. On it I would register the names of all those I would visit and next to their name put down the colour of their eyes. There you are, I share with you one of my great secrets. We should look into each other’s eyes more often. It is all there, the unabridged history of a life.

Leo K., a young man in his early twenties had been involved in a horrific accident with the worst of all possible results: quadriplegia with locked-in syndrome [LIS]. He was fully conscious but trapped inside his body. Neither able to move nor to speak. A drunkard had disregarded a stop sign and crashed head-on into the beautiful boy who was riding his motor-cycle. The next time my brave young friend was to wake up it would be without movement in his limbs and without his voice. Until his death a few months later, he would only be able to communicate with his eyes. I would pray some silent prayers. Other times I would want to hold him in my arms. Did he like to dance? I am sad that was something I never had the chance to ask.

Leo and I would communicate using a magnetic board with red letters. I would point to a letter and he would blink at the right place. Then we would move on to the next one, soon we managed to work out short cuts and this made things simpler. So we were able to drift into other places and explore additional modes of communication. Not once did he complain or express a desire to die. Often he would be smiling. His heart was at peace. Of course, needless to say nothing of this was easy. It took titanic strength. Years later when horrifying thoughts of suicide would unrelentingly torment me, I would many times recollect him and hold back until the next day. I asked Leo if it was okay for me to bring a recording of the Gospel of John. He replied, “Y.” I asked him if he still believed. It was the same response, “Y”. There were other things we spoke about as well, including rugby league. He told me he was a fan of the Sydney Roosters. Leo, who had the most penetrating green eyes, died from pneumonia a few days before he was due to fly out to Moscow for some cutting-edge treatment.

One afternoon I visited Leo with a new seminarian. He said to me, “[w]e have nothing to complain about, look at Leo.” This especially upset me. We should not find comfort in the suffering of another nor look upon suffering with pity nor patronize the wounded. ‘Feeling sorry’ helps no one and can diminish our companion’s understanding of hopefulness. On some bowed stringed instruments we find metal strings, they vibrate in sympathy with the stopped strings. These are not touched with the fingers or the bow. They are called sympathetic strings. Compassion is something like that, to feel sorrow for the sufferings or misfortunes of another. Compassion [from the L. compati ‘suffer with’] has much in common with that glorious word: sympathy. What is sympathy? It is derived from the Greek sympάtheίa which literally means “feeling with another.” It is good to be a ‘sympathetic string’. Yet it is not always easy and it can only happen in small increments of grace like the baby steps we take to enter into the mystery of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37).

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

At the conclusion of the last class when I was teaching regularly at the university, I would suggest a reading list to my students which was outside our information and communication technology (ICT) bibliography. This list included authors such as Primo Levi, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Viktor Frankl, and Jean-Dominique Bauby. JDB the editor of the French fashion magazine ELLE was made famous by his incredible book (which was published two days before he died), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.[5] In 1995 at the age of 43 he suffered the brain stem stroke (the brain stem passes the brain’s motor commands to the body) which causes locked-in syndrome. Bauby with the help of some good people, particularly Claude Mendibil, wrote and edited his memoir one letter at a time with the only part of his body that he could still control… his left eyelid. He did this similarly to the way I would communicate with Leo, by using a board with letters. This type of system is often called partner assisted scanning (PAS). And like Leo, he too, would die of pneumonia.

 

[1] The Quotable Lewis, Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root (editors), (Tyndale House Publishers, Illinois, 1990), 149f.

[2] https://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/

[3] ‘The paradox of suffering and evil,’ says Nicholas Berdyaev [whom Bishop Kallistos cites in The Orthodox Way], ‘is resolved in the experience of compassion and love.’ These oft quoted words point back to the Cross but also to Saint Paul who understands suffering as a participation in the mystery of Christ (Phil. 3:8-11).

[4] The Paschal homily of Saint John Chrysostom (c.349-407) read on the Sunday of the Resurrection continues to inspire and to comfort believers across Christendom: http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/sermon.htm

[5] https://www.amazon.com/Diving-Bell-Butterfly-Memoir