Current Issue

COMFORT & JOY: Parabola Volume 48, No. 4, Winter 2023-2024

“Tidings of comfort and joy” the Christmas carol goes, and at first thought comfort and joy do seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.

But not always. I remember as a child playing that carol on our baby grand while a dozen relatives stood around me singing exuberantly off key, embodiments of comfort and joy who made my heart soar. That same memory shades into one from Christmas morning, however, when my mother realized that she’d forgotten to buy a gift for my cousin, who sat forlorn until, at my mother’s urging, I gave up one of my own gifts to him, hastily rewrapped. I didn’t want to give it and it made me cringe, but that discomfort gave rise to joy when I saw his smile.

Several contributors to this Winter 2023-2024 issue of Parabola offer powerful tales of joy arising from discomfort. Musician Eric Krans, for example, offers an account of his shy, reluctant nephew asking a stranger for help and the boy’s joy when the man happily complies; and from independent scholar Giorgio Sol comes a startling consideration of the teaching (“The worst portents are joyfully accepted”) of little-known Indonesian Buddhist master Serlingpa. 

The insight that joy can arise from discomfort like a lotus from mud is supported by another: that our lives, and the universe in which we live them, are meaningful and good, and that realization of this can bring comfort and joy in equal measure. Strong examples abound in these pages, from renowned teacher Ravi Ravindra’s memoir of meeting Krishnamurti to novelist Elizabeth Cunningham’s reminiscence of worshipping with the Quakers, to scientist Susan Bauer-Wu and H.H. The Dalai Lama together imagining a future that, as they put it, “we can love.” Also here are a meditation from Benedictine oblate Gilbert Friend-Jones on memento mori, and a fond remembrance by novelist Mary A. Osborne of the very special town where she grew up. There are meditations on Ralph Waldo Emerson and C.S. Lewis, a report by activist Trebbe Johnson on this year’s Parliament of World Religions, and—an annual event—the winning entries in this year’s Poetry of the Sacred contest. And much more.

May this issue bring you much comfort, and much joy.

—Jeff Zaleski

table of contents

Passing Through the Storm  Tracy Cochran 
Finding comfort and joy in an uncertain world

A Brave Little Parrot Susan Bauer-Wu and H.H. the Dalai Lama
An inspiring call to protect the Earth, and humankind

The Endless Vows  Mark Nepo
Four statements that can “return us to ourselves and each other”

The Mine and the Rainbow  K. Lauren de Boer
A new covenant of gratitude and reciprocity

The Flow of Silence  Elizabeth Cunningham
Worshipping with the Quakers

O Little Town of Riverside  Mary A. Osborne  
A magical hometown, courtesy of Frederick Law Olmsted

Meeting Krishnamurti  Ravi Ravindra 
Encounters with the spiritual giant

A Watch in the Night  Gilbert Friend-Jones
A Benedictine reflection on memento mori

“I hope this destroys you completely!”  Giorgio A. Calleja Sol
An ancient Buddhist master’s teachings on suffering

A Descent into Joy  Eric Krans
Sometimes it’s the rougher road that takes us home

A Place to Stand  Richard G. Geldard  
The spiritual awakening of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Metaphors of Movement Keith Badger
Walking with an Inkling or two

The Blessing of Adversity Chris Prentiss
Wisdom from the heart of Tao

“You’ve never seen the like of me before!” Charles Dickens
Lessons from the Ghost of Christmas Present


The Melody of Nothingness
Anonymous / Lakota Sioux
Retold by Nartana Premachandra


Winners of the 2023 Poetry of the Sacred Contest

Song of the Tides Jenevieve Carlyn Hughes
Ruth 1:17-18 Tianyu Wi
Maybe this is it Raya Yarbrough


Light and Danger through the Crack in the Door Trebbe Johnson
A lively report from the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions