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Christ Church, Roath Park,
Wales UK CF23 5QN
Trystan Owain Hughes is currently the Anglican Chaplain at Cardiff University, and previously curate in Llantwit Major and Whitchurch, Cardiff. In writing this slim, readable volume, he draws upon his own experience as someone diagnosed in his early 30s with a degenerative spine condition who has had to learn to live with constant physical pain.
If that makes this book sound gloomy or introspective, nothing could be further from the truth. The Author mentions his own situation in the first few pages, but then uses this as a launching point to examine those times when life seems to challenge us. He begins by examining the key concepts of Acceptance and Awareness, then turns to look in more detail at how these concepts can help us to make sense of the pain – physical or emotional – we have to face. Using these tools, he offers us a variety of windows through which to look – nature, art, humour, memory and other people – and through each we learn to see our own suffering, however great or however seemingly slight, in a different way: transformed and transforming. He draws examples from the widest possible variety of sources; from country music to contemporary films, from poetry to sports, from writers from every age and from many cultures. This breadth of scope makes the book a remarkably accessible and enjoyable read, whilst its central premise remains insightful and challenging.
Dr Hughes writes from within the Anglican tradition, but draws from the wisdom of those of other denominations and other faiths. Indeed, one writer whose work echoes throughout the framework of this book is the Psychologist and Auschwitz survivor, Viktor Frankl. Although the book clearly and unequivocally approaches the subject from a Christian perspective, it equally unambiguously offers its message to those of all faiths or none.
Whilst this is a book that could be read in a weekend, it is also a book that lends itself to deeper consideration or being read within a group. It faces, with courage, issues of personal suffering that our society often prefers to ignore and seeks above all to help us find some sense of purpose in the journey of our life however rough the track may seem. In a world and a culture that tries to sweep the messiness of pain or grief out of sight, it is sweet relief to find a book which addresses these issues honestly, openly and positively.