Loneliness and the Way of the Cross

Via Dolorosa

by Nick Trakakis

RRP not stated. 187 pages, published by the author Clayton, Vic. [www.trakakis.com]

Reviewed by Ted Witham

The inspirations for Via Dolorosa include Albert Camus’ Cahiers/Notebooks and Blaise Pascal’s Pensées/Thoughts. Like both Cahiers and Pensées, Via Dolorosa consists in fragments of thoughts about philosophy and its “siblings”; theology and poetry.

Some coherence among these fragments is cinched in two lonely years Trakakis spent as a post-doctoral researcher at Notre Dame University in Indiana. Some thoughts were sparked by seminars and Masses Trakakis attended, and some by his own desperate loneliness.

But the coherence is illusory. The fragments, Nick Trakakis tells us, fragment both author and reader (p.170). Like our glimpses of God’s nature or true meanings, communication too is fragmented. This fragmentation makes this book initially difficult to engage. Persistence, however, is rewarded with rich insights and observations.

Nick Trakakis, an academic philosopher, is struggling to find language to express with integrity his thoughts about life, God and academe. The author of several books and many academic papers, Dr Trakakis criticises the Anglo-Saxon analytic philosophy for alienating the personal. Nick Trakakis here finds much to agree with Camus in ‘atheistic theism’.

These reflections were most engaging, partly because I am a long-term admirer of Camus’ Cahiers, and partly because, on this issue, our concepts of God, Trakakis pushes the limits of language. There are fragments on the cartoonist-philosopher Michael Leunig, the Greek poet Cavafy and the philosopher Wittgenstein among others.

Tratakis’ first experience of the Stations of the Cross at Notre Dame moved him and “began to remove all traces of darkness within us.” (p.176) At this point Trakakis’ Via Dolorosa might be seen to intersect with that of our Lord. If this book is a feast, it is a feast of savoury nutritious finger food concocted from the Greek and desert fathers, poetry, theology and philosophy.

You can feel some of the loneliness the philosopher experiences because of his courageous willingness to examine ideas and images to the utmost. Trakakis’ soul is vulnerably visible in these lines:

“He would write and write
but every now and again
he would reach a dead end
and what he could not write
he would sing
and what he could not sing
he would dance
and what he could not dance
he would cry
but what he could not cry
would only die.”

This review published in Studio: A Journal of Christians Writing, March 2012


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