Monday, March 12, 2007

Matthew Fox Discusses the "Fierce Power" of Imagination

Via Learn Out Loud, I happened upon this series of forums from Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco today. I found this conversation with postmodern theologian Matthew Fox well worth the listen. The topic is creativity as a marker of our humanity, and the power of creativity to heal communities. In his words (complete with charming Midwestern accent):

It's part of the internalized oppression of a culture, that people go around saying, "I'm not creative. I'm not creative." And then we project our creativity onto stars...

Puts me in the mind of Lynda Barry, who says we've been told to leave singing and drawing and writing "to the professionals." Both of these people challenge us to see our creative endeavors as something we do for the sake of our own mental health or for the sake of the community, not for the sake of Art or Career. Fox, in addition, challenges us to meditate on the creative areas of our lives that may not be so obvious: keeping a home, for example, or raising kids.

The moderator, Rev. Lauren Artress, asks Fox about creative blocks. His response brings in distinctly Christian imagery:

It's a resurrection story. Who's going to roll away that stone? Those stones inside of us--stones of self-doubt, stones of fear, stones of attachment.

How does this Christian imagery sit with you all? It produces mixed feelings in me, usually, but here it makes some sense. The language is familiar. I like the way he makes clear he is speaking in metaphor, that it is a religious framework for a more humanist spiritual discussion. I like the idea of exploring religious metaphor and language, without necessarily needing to "join up" or "believe." (And Fox reminds us of the chilling relationship between fascism and Christianity....) Responses?

I think I might listen to Anne Lamott next.



Blogger Joyce Hanson said...

How strange. I've been thinking a lot lately, too, about religious symbolism and language (see my recent post on sin and redemption), and I've also been feeling a strong Episcopalian pull these days. Your post about the Rev. Fox sermon gave me chills, like he was speaking to me directly. Just today, I was at St. Bartholomew's church in Manhattan, signing up to volunteer with New York Cares, and I learned that St. B has a long history of promoting social welfare in NYC. Also, there was a recent article in the New York Times saying that the Anglican Church of England wants to dissolve its ties to the American Episcopalians, who embrace gays with open arms, but the Americans give one-third of the church's charitable contributions to the Third World, so they need the crazy liberals' money. And finally, I just found a long-lost girlfriend from high school, and it turns out that she's now an ordained Episcopalian priest. When you look at the cool stuff about the Episcopalians, it's a shame that the Religious Right has such a stranglehold on faith these days in America.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Joyce: nice to meet you!

St. Barts is a cool church. I have been to their daily noon services there, where they let me sit in the back and take notes. Their policy is "all are welcome," regardless of religious belief, creed, color, or sexual orientation. I'm not comfortable with the Episcopal liturgy, but St. Barts is a big safe place for me to explore why I am uncomfortable with it. St. Barts has an unconventional service too, like the kind Matthew Fox mentions in that podcast. (I believe it is like that. I haven't been.)

My father is an Episcopal priest, and I was raised in a liberal lefty household. I have a great respect for his work (hi Dad!) and my latest opus is about a big Episcopal family, so my research has me doing some soul-searching as well.

The religious traditions that draw me most are meditation-based. The Quakers, the Buddhists. Some people find the liturgy like "coming home." For me, tuning into my environment, in silence, has that same effect.

I'll go over and check out your post!

6:50 PM  
Blogger Joyce Hanson said...

Hi, again, Anne. Nice to meet you, too. If you go looking for my post on sin, it's titled "Sin & Ashes," dated Feb. 25, and I wrote it after getting an Ash Wednesday smudge on my forehead. Now I'm even more curious to learn about the Episcopalians after reading your comment about St. Barts and your latest opus. I was raised Congregationalist, and also went to a cool lefty church when young, but I have an extremely hard time with the Nicene Creed--the born and died for our sins business. I refused to say it out loud as a teenager, because I knew I'd be lying if I said I believed it. Now that I'm a grownup and trying to become more spiritual, I seem to gravitate to the Protestants because they're comfortably familiar to me, even though I still can't deal with the Nicene Creed. Though I might try to give the Buddhists a try.

1:49 PM  

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