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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Good words for a hard week

Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.  --Frederick Buechner
Buechner is the author of many good books, including that small but mighty and beautiful novel, Godric, told in the voice of Godric of Finchale (c. 1065 – 21 May 1170).

Frederick Buechner will turn 90 tomorrow. Happy birthday to him! He has lived long; may he live longer, long enough to see concord and compassion elevated over divisiveness and scorn in this country.

"Love one another."


  1. I haven't read this book, but I know whereof he speaks in the passage you quoted above.
    I have been feeling the pain of this country, and it is hard.

    1. Difficult times, difficult questions.

    2. Oh, and that's not from "Godric," which you ought to read--told in the voice of a medieval saint who doesn't feel himself to be in the least bit saint-like.

  2. I wonder about linking compassion and fatal. I'm not sure what that must mean.

    However, even as I ponder that linkage, I admit (confess) that my compassion has limits; I cannot "live inside" the skin of murderous bigots (e.g., the killer in Dallas). Christ would forgive. But I'm not even close to Christ-like. My capacity for compassion could never become so pure and divine.

    1. "Fatal" is the most surprising word in those lines. Compassion and love convict us all.

      I expect the good Samaritan (and the question, "Who is my neighbor?") made an appearance in many a church sermon this morning.

  3. A long time ago - perhaps even before the year designated as seminal by Phillip Larkin - I read a novel by Frederick Buechner, although I was under the somewhat shaky impression he used the umlaut rather than than "ue" in those days. I was far more adventurous in my reading than I am now and the experience is lost in a blur of other experimental sallies. I've just combed through his Wiki bibliography trying desperately for a resonance among the titles: Lion Country (1971) and The Entrance to Porlock (1970) tinkle faintly but both of those are post-Larkin. It's infuriating since I remember nothing other than his name and the teeniest sense of satisfaction. This could well become the literary equivalent of an earworm; if it becomes too insistent I'll report back.

    I have done a review of The Foliate Head. Not wanting to expose it to the public gaze before you'd seen it, I sent it to the email address implied in one of your comments to Tone Deaf although I'm not sure this works. It may be you received it and would prefer not to respond. In which case simply ignore what I've said here.

    If you haven't and would like to read it suggest a mode of transmission.

    1. Well, read Godric! Truly, I think it strange and wonderful. And a good counter to a lot of smarm said about the saintly.

      Hmm. I have three email accounts but rarely go to two of them. Shall poke around.

  4. Hi! I read your comment on Solitary Praxis and you intrigued me. I have never heard of Frederick Buechner but am going to look up his work and see if I like it.

    Incidentally, I'm impressed that you got a blurb on First Things. That is one of my favorite magazines.

    I also have a blog: You're welcome to come visit any time.

    As for the quote: I'm wondering if he is talking about compassion or empathy. I'm reminded that Christ had compassion for Israel because He saw that they were sheep without a shepherd and longed to draw them under His wings as a hen does her chicks.

    I pray I have this kind of compassion/empathy for others.

    1. Note down below--reply button is now working! Crazy.

  5. P.S. I'm browsing through your books on Amazon. The cover art is fantastic!

  6. Hi, Sharon--

    Hope this goes; for some reason, the "reply" button under each comment is on the fritz...

    Yes, try Godric!

    I did a review recently for First Things, and I've been on their "first links" and annual round-up of books. They are good!

    The first line certainly sounds like a definition of empathy, doesn't it? And I am sure such Biblical views of compassion are very much in Buechner's mind.

    The bulk of my books have cover art by my friend Clive Hicks-Jenkins. There's also one by Steve Cieslawski, and a couple by Renato Alarcão. I've had some quite stellar designers, like Andrew Wakelin and Elizabeth Adams and Mary-Frances Glover Burt.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.