Awareness is everything, the author writes in one chapter, and this theme of seeking enlightenment through an imaginative as well as intellectual exploration of the world around us runs throughout this short book. Despite the fact it can be read in a weekend the book covers a collossal range of material and looks as much to pop music and Hollywood as Plato and Aristotle in order to illuminate its key motif - that life is a journey, not a race, and whatever our difficulties, our duty is, above all, to travel it well.
From Sean Penn's film Into The Wild to the Holocaust reflections of Viktor Frankl, Dr Hughes explores how all of us can learn to 'strip things away' so we have room in our hearts for that which is of real importance - be it natural beauty, family, friendship, art or love. As a jumping-off point for all sorts of other themes and ideas this book is brilliant at pointing the way. Borrowing heavily from scripture as well as other faiths this is a great read for both christians and non-christians alike and casts a welcome light on the dark times all of us have to face.
We live in a world largely unsympathetic to the question of pain, be it physical or emotional, and it takes a huge amount of courage to engage in any discourse about it. People either don't get it or just don't want to hear about it. As someone who lives daily with a long-term chronic illness, I know how hard it can be sometimes to stay positive. Yet this book helps to demonstrate what most of us already understand but sometimes forget - that by viewing the world with open eyes and an open heart, and by valuing the things of real worth, we can affirm our lives and faith and hold on to strength even in the depths of our suffering.
This book is a superb example of how to take a sensitive, difficult subject and handle it brilliantly. The notion of even looking for hope and meaning in suffering is one that is objectionable to many and yet it remains a key skill in dealing with the downs (be they long term or more fleeting) that must - for all of us - form an integral part of life in all its fullness. Trystan Owain-Hughes has produced a book that is engaging and a stunningly easy read which is all the more remarkable given the subject at hand. In combining his straight-forward style with a vast array of wisdom extracted from contemporary sources and blending it deftly with Christian teaching and understanding, the author has managed to make the incredibly difficult task of addressing hope and meaning in suffering look easy and graceful. As a great fan of finding God in contemporary culture I was delighted to find a generous use of quotes from films, poems and music and the extensive use of Viktor Frankl provided an additional wisdom and gravitas that never threatened to become maudlin. Without ever being dismissive of the difficulties faced in suffering and illness, this book opens the door to - even goes beyond - providing comfort in dark places. It gives understanding that God works in darkness as well as light and that our difficulties can indeed be the very times when we are closest to God; times when we are moulded, shaped or even defined. More readable, upbeat and straightforward than others in it's area (eg Yancey) this was top notch.
Much in depth has already been said about this gem of a book that I shall keep the review simple. This book is true to its cover as it shines its light gently on suffering, and it offers great depth of hope acting as a beacon to the soul to enable it to find life.