Cairns draws extensively on Eastern Orthodox teachers to discuss the “problem of pain.” Pain, Cairns says, is a great teacher, a way of coming to life and awakening. All pain that is experienced in the world is our pain, and we are both the cause of that pain and the remedy for it. “An isolated individual does not a person make,” he writes, noting that he himself spent a “good—or rather a decidedly bad—ten years or so without a body; I was a severed member, languishing alone.” The only, and deepest, remedy for our pain is to use it to propel ourselves into communion with other people and with God. Cairns is a good teacher, humble and forthright. At times, especially at the beginning of the essay, his thick language is a slog, but ironically, as the theology deepens, the pace quickens.


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