Columbia University Press has just released What Matters?: Ethnographies of Value in a Not So Secular Age, edited by Courtney Bender and Ann Taves.
Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’
Language is a funny thing. Take my epigraph, for example: three words from the fourth paragraph of Frequencies’ project statement. I find these three words interesting—worth re-reading, even un-reading, rather than just reading—because of the contradiction that they carry along with them; for they unsay what it is that we think they just said.
Like I said, language is a funny thing.
The first thing that strikes you when looking at Frequencies is the scope of the project and the breadth of contributions it includes. The breadth of the essays is truly amazing—people, events, places, books, a CD, ideas. The project covers a lot of ground. And just for the pleasure of reading some of these essays, I’m grateful and moved. I wonder, however, about two things. One is about form and one is about content. First, the question about form: Is this a genealogy? Second, the question about content: What are the avenues of spirituality that the project maps?
A friend recently sent me a Huffington Post piece from last summer on the state of New Hampshire putting up one of those road-sign historical markers to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the UFO abduction experience of the mixed racial couple, Betty and Barney Hill.
The first thing you notice about Frequencies is the sheer proliferation of categories, though they clearly are not categories in either the Hegelian or the quotidian sense. They are more like soundings into the depths of a shared darkness or lenses through which we might glimpse an otherwise blinding luminescence. Words cluster inside the frame of the screen, that ubiquitous medium through which we all present ourselves to ourselves. At the top is an index. On the side is a cloud of things called “resonances” and “wavelengths,” both terms nodding to Deleuzian technologies of circulation. And within we find an even 100 musings.
Much more than a blog, Frequencies is a treasure trove of deep description and highly creative analysis. The casual observer initially might assume Frequencies to be a motley collection of unrelated reflections on matters ranging from historical figures to chicken sandwiches. Such an assumption could not be more foolhardy, however. The hundred essays that comprise Frequencies could not be more intimately related, as all of them, in their own ways, are part of the same family tree.
Reading the entries posted at Frequencies, an online project that alleges to be “a collaborative genealogy of spirituality,” brings out the bitchy side of my temperament.
When Thomas Tweed asks, “Is ‘spirituality’ a noun? A verb? Something else?,” I want to send him a pocket dictionary that he can consult in future moments of linguistic crisis, so that he does not produce overwrought prose that only calls attention to himself. (Confidential to TT: it’s a noun.)
In a recent issue of TIME, Amy Sullivan writes of a 2009 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and an example of American expats in Mexico that both suggest Americans may prefer to grow their own when it comes to religious congregations.