Thursday, June 20, 2013

二千五百番通

This is the 2500th post on this blog. How the time does fly! But how pleasingly appropriate that this should come up on the eve of a trip back to Australia, for which the blog was created 2484 days ago, 1 Sep '06. In that time I've shared a good many views of Australia, as well as Taiwan, India, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Nepal, China, Portugal, Spain, and sundry places in the good ol' United States of America (look 'em up - that's what the little white search box at upper left is for!). But a blog isn't only or even mainly for holiday snaps and stories; slices of life, more like, cross sections, rhythms... It's a strange beast, a blog, hovering between evanescent and forgettable daily concerns and being a lasting record of the march of time.

It feels especially right to be heading back to Australia at this milestone because I'm feeling, as I did back at #1, like I'm embarking on something new. Maybe it's finally finally being finished with the Job project, a project which I've been working on in one way or another for eleven years - though it's rarely been my main thing. What was/is my main thing? A good question. You might recall that the project when I headed off for sabbatical in Melbourne in 2006 was "the problem of the good." Since then I've been entranced by "lived religion," among various other things. But I haven't had a "next project" and happily allowed New School anniversaries, Aboriginal Australia, the India China project on Himalayan religion and ecology, religion & fashion, queer Christianities, Buddhism & liberal arts and even Leibniz to pull me this way and that.

I feel like I'm ready to move on! On to what? Let's call it "Wider Moral Communities" for now, the name of the paper I'll be giving at AAR in November. I don't want to jinx it by defining too much at this stage, but it's basically pursuing the intuition that answers to the question "how shall we live?" can't be answered only with reference to human experience, rich and varied though it is across time and culture and even among individuals. It's not just that there may be more members to our moral communities than living adult human beings, not just that we might be called to relationships of care with what Graham Harvey calls "other-than-human persons" (which might be animate or inanimate, embodied or disembodied, focused or diffuse) but that we might learn something profound from them about ourselves.

If you've followed this blog when it gets weird and oracular, you know this isn't really new - though it's new to feel things coming together into a "project." You'll have caught whiffs of this in my evolving understanding of religious studies as "the discipline that reminds us there is no consensus on the real," ruminations on ethics of care, rhapsodies on religious naturalism (including James on our "religious function" and the "demands of the universe"), grappling with "indigenous" knowledge and kinship, my curious ideas about "resource uses" for ERSEH and emerging understanding of the everyday, of "lived" religion... In a way the deeper questions of the "problem of good" are at play here, too. I think the opportunity to work with images afforded by the blog (and a sequence of trusty cameras) may also have contributed, and even the strange temporality of the blog itself - thank you!

But Australia's part of it as well, I'm sensing, a big part. I've spent the last 3 weeks here in Del Mar starting gently to explore various things I've been wanting a chance to think about for a long time, from Merleau- Ponty to ecofeminism to a book called Plants as Persons. Time and again the trail of references and acknowledgments leads down under. 2006-7, the year I spent in Australia, was the year many people "got" ecological awareness - me among them. It was the year of "An Inconvenient Truth." But what I got seems to have been shaped by specifically Australian experiences, too. "The land," one wants to say, and ancient cultures (what got me tripping about centuries and millennia), but surely also a certain historical and cultural self-consciousness among thoughtful "settler Australians," an all-bets-are-off off-the-mapness. And Leunig!

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