Thursday, February 11, 2016

Networks and legacies

I usually don't have many visitors come to my classes, but this week I had high calibre visitors to two of them: Bryan Doerries, of Outside the Wire (whose community meetings around readings of Greek tragedies, and of Job, have reached seventy thousand people), spoke to the ULEC on Job and the Arts, and Tony Carnes, editor of the premier website on NYC religion (which had its thirty millionth visitor last week!), came to "Lived Religion in NYC." It's pretty cool that such people are around and available and approachable: welcome to New York City!

I won't summarize their very different talks. I'll just say that Doerries' theater skill in presenting difficult ideas in a challenging but open way shone on Wednesday, and Carnes' journalist's gift for unassumingly establishing people's trust was on display today. I think students were excited to spend time with people whose work they had read/seen, and, through them, to feel connected to networks and communities of others with similar concerns - I know I did. (My cred went up to, too, for knowing people who know people!)

Doerries and Carnes may have accepted my invitation because I'm at The New School, a place important to both of them. Carnes came here to do graduate work in sociology. He said this was "for a religious reason," since he had recently become a Christian and found he wanted to know more about the way people's basic assumptions affected their social behavior - something most sociology departments in the US didn't touch. He didn't stay through the PhD, being a journalist rather than a scholar, but is grateful for what he learned here.

Doerries' life was changed by intensive work as an undergraduate at Kenyon College with a just-retired professor of religion named Eugen Kullmann. From 1947 to 1968 Kullmann taught course in the philosophy and psychology of religion at The New School. Doerries recounts that Kullman taught him that learning added the e which makes the human humane.

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