Thursday, May 28, 2009


It's been another tough week with a difficult weekend ahead. My troubles, however, are not worth writing about. But in the rush of things I have stopped and wondered about those of others. First, reading White Tiger for book club, a short and not terribly original novel, despite having won the 2008 Man Booker prize, yet it still raised some disturbing questions about survival of the fittest as well as shedding light on the complexities of post-European-colonial politics and culture.

Second, was an unexpected quick read of Elizabeth Edwards' new book, Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities. This was the kind of book that ordinarily might pique my curiosity but one I would never get around to reading. I had already heard more than I wanted about John Edwards' affair, both before and after Elizabeth starting making appearances promoting the book. But her recent interview on the Diane Rehm show caught me up short. There is depth and honesty and complexity to this woman that go beyond even what one might expect from her life story.

The book in some ways was not as revealing as the interview and good deal more painful, but beautifully written. I am glad I read it, and may read it again. It is not in any way a "feel good" or "inspirational" piece but rather a soul-searching memoir. One gets the feeling at the end that "resilience" is a quality she very much has striven for, yet remains elusive. Or maybe it is that my likely romanticized notion of what "resilience" should look and sound like is something too -- well, springy -- for what it really means to fight to live today and another through great tragedy, grief, and incomprehension. Resilience for Elizabeth Edwards is carrying on, not giving up, but that does not mean that things are ever tied neatly or firmly, past, present, or that unknown future.

Someday maybe I can go back and find some of the passages that struck me as powerful and insightful. For now, however, I'll just share this bit about the on-line grief groups, which was an important part of her struggle to deal with her son's death, and religion:
How rare it must be for someone to say, "I deserve this cancer; it is a proper punishment for my sins," or even more unlikely, "God was right to take my child, for I am not pious." We all have to redraw lines and rearrange our expectations of faith in these moments, and it is understandable that we do not come to rest with precisely the same understanding. In my online grief groups, there were Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists, and there were many with no faith at all. We had talked about graves and headstones and cremation and every manner of thing, and so we felt secure enough in this group to talk about this, the most important of things, the likelihood of eternal life and ultimate reunion. But those who needed, understandably to believe that eternal life was absolutely assured perhaps by some ritual in which their child had engaged surely hurt, by their strident insistence on th4e importance of those rituals, those whose children did not conform to their faith. So arguments began among people who had previously understood the rules of the group to be that we would, at all costs, protect one another. I had to wonder, as it happened, what God, looking down on His creation, would think of us. He would, I imagine, be perplexed that we understood so little of what He wanted from us.
Resilience, at p. 115 (Broadway Books: New York, 2009) at pp. 114-115