Recently, during a rather long episode of very slow stop-and-go traffic, I found myself passing the time by observing the people in the cars around me. A few were on cell phones, or engaging some other mobile electronic device in one way or another. Several others were involved in various other forms of multi-tasking behavior, including eating, reading, checking make-up, managing children, etc. Those listening to music were the easiest to spot; heads bobbing, hands tapping out the beat on the steering wheel or dash board, some even singing along.
“Literature and drama? Hmmm, interesting. And how do you see that fitting in with, you know, the mission of the church?” As an English literature PhD student finishing a dissertation about Victorian theater—Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, and a few other nineteenth-century writers you have probably never heard of—I’ve heard this question a good many times from my friends in church. I used to bristle at this question, however kind and polite the tone; it was like being asked, “Please explain why you should be allowed to exist.” But now that I think about it, it’s not such a bad question.
I was outside my natural habitat, standing before an art design class, but the professor, Martha Mason, builds her classes on a spiritual foundation and a belief that art is important to everyone, not just artists. My limited experience in artistic design focused on redecorating my house, a task I approached with pure mortal terror. I had decorated it once, so doing it again should be no sweat. The house was over 30 years old and I had built it myself when I first moved to Walla Walla.
Then April, gloom and shine,
Sad, merry, wilful, meek,
With a crocus in her tresses
And with tears upon her cheek.
Excerpt from “The Masque of Months” by Edgar Fawcett
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.
“April Rain Song” by Langston Hughes
Some days Easter is hard to take.
Easter has passed. For a few days my Facebook and Twitter feeds were a cascade of happy, enthusiastic pictures. Choirs with arms raised high. Pastors declaring the end of death and offer of salvation. I saw just about all the stock pictures of tombs with the stone rolled away that there are.
“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it a hundred times, and so have I. To put my cards on the table, I’m not a fan of that statement. Separating out spirituality from religion seems ridiculous to me. As if being “spiritual” is a conscious pursuit that one can so easily divorce from a “religious” context. As if the human exercise of spirituality could have survived through the ages without its cultivation in religion contexts.
When a Christian studies world religions, it becomes obvious that one can learn lessons to apply on the path to maturity. Even as Gandhi gave credit to the gospels as part of his journey, Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged Gandhi as formative in his own understanding. In this month, when the United States pauses to contemplate Black History, this essay will reflect on Gandhi’s ideals which were influential to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the hope to provide reflective guidance in responding to evil today.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were trying to teach someone and he or she was having a difficult time understanding the concept or stumbling in the performance of the task? Maybe you were on the phone with a friend describing a computer program with multiple clicks and pull-down menus. Maybe your aged parent was maneuvering the mouse pointer on-screen agonizingly slowly and you wanted to grab the mouse and just do it yourself. Maybe your own child just could not seem to get his or her shoes tied fast enough.