Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Power of the Printed Word

I was sitting in the chair at the hairdressers the other day dozing quietly while he clipped away thoughtfully at the back of my head. Suddenly he surprised me with the question 'have you read any of the works of Thomas Merton?' Now being more used to discussing the weather with my hairdresser, or the latest football results, or the state of the fishing this season, my surprise bordered on the amazed. 'No, I haven't' I replied thruthfully 'but I am reading a book called Wounded Healer at the moment which was written by another Catholic philosopher and teacher, Henri Nouwen.'

Now before you get carried away with your respect for the erudition of my affaire de coiffure let me hasten to say that the conversation did not dwell too long on religious philosophy but it did give me a brief opportunity of sharing matters of faith with my friend. What interested me in all this was that he told me that his uncle had posessed a volume of Merton's works for years with it just sitting on his shelf. Recently, my haircutting friend had borrowed it and surprise surprise, found it contained some very interesting stuff which is having a profound effect on his outlook and world view. The power of the printed word.

I am really encouraged by that, and hopeful that my own book Braving the Storm ( will have a similar, lasting effect. It is due to be published in May, and will come out simultaneously in the UK, the USA and India. It's the story of my 10 year battle with the extreme pain and life-threatening consequences of pancreatitis. It tells of those things which have been found to hinder and those which have helped the daily task of overcoming. Jeff Lucas, who did the foreword for me, said: 'Eric tells the truth about pain. There’s no gloss, fluff, hyper-spirituality or clich├ęs. The absence of them all makes me grateful, for slogans sting like salt on an already deep wound when you’re suffering. You won’t find slick answers in this book, or a satisfying, ‘they all lived happily ever after’ ending. What you will find is words that are written in blood, sweat and tears rather than just ink. You’ll look into the heart of a fellow traveler, who must have been tempted to slam the door once and for all in the face of a God who calls Himself good. Here is warm hope, honest empathy, faith that is gritty and authentic.'

So here's hoping that this book will live on long after I leave this earth, and that it might just speak when my own voice is silent. Perhaps some hairdresser or taxi-driver or doctor or person in pain might just find that these words were printed just for them. If they do - if even one does - the ten years will not have been in vain.