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Poet and literature professor Scott Cairns ran headlong into his midlife crisis – a fairly common experience among men nearing the age of fifty – while walking on the beach with his Labrador. His was not a desperate attempt to recapture youth, filled with sports cars and younger women. Instead, Cairns realized his spiritual life was advancing at a snail's pace and time was running out. Midlife crisis for this this Baptist turned Eastern Orthodox manifested as a desperate need to seek out prayer.
Originally published in 2007, this new edition of Short Trip to the Edge include photos, maps and an expanded narrative of Scott's spiritual journey to the mystical peninsula of Mt. Athos. With twenty monasteries and thirteen sketes scattered across its sloping terrain, the Holy Mountain was the perfect place for Scott to seek out a prayer father and discover the stillness of the true prayer life.
Told with wit and exquisite prose, his narrative takes the reader from a beach in Virginia to the most holy Orthodox monasteries in the world to a monastery in Arizona and back again as Scott struggles to find his prayer path. Along the way, Cairns forged relationships with monks, priests, and fellow pilgrims.
"Scott Cairns is not only one of the most vital poets of our time but also a prose writer of uncommon vision, and in Short Trip to the Edge, his account of his pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain of Athos, in northern Greece, he weaves together a personal history of faith, a wealth of learning, and the wisdom of the ages to create a book for spiritual seekers from every religious denomination. What better guide, and travel companion, than Scott Cairns? I would follow him to the edge – and beyond." —Christopher Merrill, author of Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain
"Mt Athos is 'the edge' in more ways than one, a place both beautiful and ruggedly challenging, alive with spiritual power that shares the same qualities. Cairns is the ideal guide — relaxed, invitingly conversational, and often amused, but always evoking the awe that these mysteries deserve." — Frederica Mathewes-Green
"In Short Trip To The Edge, Scott Cairns pulls back the curtain and gives us a glimpse of the spiritual energy present on the Holy Mountain. He approaches his prose with the soul and skill of a poet. It is at once simple and profound—accessible and ineffable. Scott has the boldness to confront the deepest parts of our human nature with fierce honesty and humor. It's a place where "pilgrims are a mixed bag," holy relics make the heart race and true spirituality is an "acquired taste." The reader, (or should I say pilgrim) is invited to travel along a beautiful and potentially frightening road into the heart of silence, repentance and prayer. There is a palpable sense of being there: surrounded by a timeless chorus of voices chanting on The Holy Mountain, praying for the life of the world. One slowly loses the desire to arrive and begins to embrace the possibility of "always becoming." Scott Cairns pours out his soul in this brilliant and much needed book. It is well worth the taking this short trip to the edge!" —Jonathan Jackson, star of the hit ABC show Nashville and author of The Mystery Of Art
"A Short Trip to the Edge is an exceptional and compelling book. Scott Cairns has a poet's eye and a story-tellers flair, so that mystical experience and profound theology are bodied forth in memorable images and vivid scenes, instead of being lost in abstraction. This book witnesses to the way ancient truths can become vivid, true and life-changing in the here and now. This is a short trip you will never forget." —Rev. Dr. Malcolm Guite, Girton College, Cambridge
Impressively well written, organized and presented, this new edition of "Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer" with its photographic illustrations is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from first page to last. Informative, thoughtful, written with insight and inspiration, "Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer" is unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation.