All biography is like that, built through conversation…“Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the ‘holy ground’ of our encounter with the one who speaks to me. Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.”
Nouwen had a way of writing and relating to others that Burns captures well in this work. In Burns Afterward: Where Biography and Autobiography Intersect. Burns states, “Reading a biography, we compare and contrast someone else’s life challenges and choices with our own in a delicate dance with those partners biography and autobiography…The Christian tradition encourages us to seek out models of holiness and inspiration wherever and however we might find them.” It is through this process biographies like the one Burns has wrote here become part of our own autobiography which we are all in process of writing however intentionally or unintentionally with our lives.
Through Burns work the reader is privileged to gain insight into the life of Henri Nouwen and see just how similar the reader is to him. Nouwen was similar to most of us in his struggles, though with his own unique setting and story.
I appreciated the process Burns used to gather facts about Nouwen’s life and weave them together for a clearer picture of the type of person he was. Through this process the reader can become inspired by the type of person and life that Nouwen lived.
Burns list nine points of intersection which serve as lessons for us as readers (pp 109-117):
- Be open to blessing
- Be open to the moment
- Be open to friends
- Be guided
- Be useful
- Be patient
- Be aware of your role
- Be unfiltered
- Be loved
Enter the story and see for your life the points where Biography and autobiography intersect through Nouwen’s life and your life.
Note: I received a free copy of this book by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the thoughts expressed here are my own.