Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My tribes

To my great pleasure, two of the students in Monday's class have taken up my invitation to get in touch. (In fact, both of them came to talk to me the day of the talk, too.)

One wonders if I dismissed theodicy as a universal challenge too quickly. (It was the powerpoint slide in the third picture below, "Do most people even have a theodicy?") But doesn't the long influence of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy demonstrate that the problem of evil isn't just a misshapen modern thing, what happens when you lose sight of the parallel problem of good - and that philosophy can do religious work? What’s more, if we agree that philosophy functions as religion does as in making the “suffering sufferable”, the similarity of philosophy and religion is at once illustrated. Maybe both are deeply rooted in the nature of human that always try to give an explanation about the chaos.

The other, a philosophy major considering switching to sociology, is familiar with debates about secularization and with the idea that contemporary "spirituality" is really not that different from the "religion" it claims to distinguish itself from - though not the American discussion. I sent him a link to a short article by Nancy Ammerman about her recent study Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes which I hadn't got around to reading myself. I've read it now. Great stuff:

What became clear in this research is that seeing the world through a spiritual lens is something that is created and carried in conversation — in places where people tell each other stories. When we talk with others we hear them speak of God’s presence in the world. When we name something out loud as a spiritual presence in our lives, it becomes so. Those conversations happen among the people I came to call “spiritual tribes” — circles of companions who tell each other sacred stories.

I don't know what either of them makes of the current spiritual landscape of China (though the latter said he knows many people who do yoga but don't think it's religious). Perhaps I'll find out: I'm meeting one of them for coffee on Friday!

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