Sunday 20 July 2008

Faith Quests - Seminar

One of the first courses I did when I went back to school was RS100C Faith Quests, taught not by the usual professors but by Michael W. Higgins. This was a hand out I created for a seminar I presented. Each student had to choose two of the people profiled in the book Brave Souls: Writers and artists wrestle with God, love, death and the things that matter edited by Douglas Todd the book is a collection of profiles and interviews with famous people broken into the categories of Atheists, Doubters, Questers and New Mystics.

Robert Fulghum

One of the world's most financially successful authors. Who didn't start a writing career until after he was 50 , and even then it was something that fell in his lap, more then was pursued. He made more then $10 million from his first book alone. All I
really needed to know I learned from kindergarten: uncommon thoughts on common things. Which is on the New Your Times all time best seller list.

He has been called a Philosopher king, which he considers a crock. Yet he does have a strong philosophical bent, in all of his life. While in a Unitarian seminary in California, he had to write a personal statement of faith each year and defend in. This has shrunk over the years and is now summed up in the saying " YOUR CREDO IS WHAT YOU DO!" Do is something he does a lot of, he had given away more then 50 % of his income. He had dedicated all the royalties from True Love a recent book to habitat for humanity, he has also given the royalties from "Words I wish I had wrote ", to The Human Rights watch. As well he believes in supporting anything worth while. He gives diversely as can be seen by these examples , planned parenthood, ACLU, green peace, Christian churches, Pub
lic radio and television. As he states, as he gets older, his words get fewer, and his sense of action increases.

A lot of critics have written him off as overly sentimental, yet a deeper look reveals a real content to the person, and to an extent in the writing. He struggles with what are the most profound issues.

He states that Kindergarten rules are tough to live up to, personally, nationally, and as a world. To Put things back, if we break it fix it, share, ...
What he is really concerned about is who is our neighbor, (the Good Samaritan story fascinates him).
Yet he is a risk taker, willing to attempt anything he believes in. He is drawn to the open minded spirituality of the Unitarian church, which is such a difference from The SBC, one of the most conservative theological denominations, and the largest protestant church in the us. In which he was raised. Not that we can tell it by Bill Clinton's membership.

Though he has many degree's, he learned more in 3 years of bartending about people and human nature, then in all of his schooling. For him all of existence is fire borne. And God is immanent. God is at all places at all times. To Him Jesus was the most provocative teacher of all time. Yet Buddha is just as central for him as Jesus.
He is full of contradictory impulses, and realizes that he reaps benefits from what he has not sown.

We can all learn from his writings if we take the time to seriously pounder, what is beneath what is being said rather then the words them self.

Evelyn Lau

Evelyn Lau was born in Vancouver to Chinese immigrant parents, who wanted her to become a Doctor. She at age 14 ran away from home rather then live up to their expectations. And because of her desire to become a writer. While on the streets she ended up addicted to drugs and was a prostitute. When she was 17 she wrote her most famous book, Runaway Diary of a Street Kid. Which was later produced into a CBC movie.

All through her life she has had a psudoGod, a God of writing, who would look after her writing, and ensure her success. If she didn't ask him for anything else. She could never go to him when she was hurting, hurt , cold. But would praise him and talk to him when things were going well with her writing. This God is like a made to order guardian angel. And her writing often acted as a talisman of protection.
And Yet she clings to and still has a Rosary she got from Pope John Paul II, that he gave to her in 1986. Like a little Icon it followers her around and has always been where she was since she got it. She claims to keep it as a reminder of the writing prize she won to meet the pope. But it seems like more than just that.

However if you ask he she claims to be an atheist, though based upon what she says this is probably not so. She claims to be still sorting out her beliefs. But there is traces of Gnostic thought in her words "I was trash, I was a slut, I want to disown this body now, cast it forever to the winds. It is too gross to be mine." Which she claims in contrast to her desire to write has always been pure. Gnostic believe that The spark of divinity within us is released and fulfilled through knowledge.

She used to write to generate compassion for the pour, outcasts, those on the fringe of society. Now she writes to illuminate language and to articulate experience.
She claims to be vulnerable in her writing and in interviews like with Todd. But is it real vulnerability, real intimacy, or is it more like pseudo intimacy and self exhibitionism. She admits to being addicted to prostitution, to the money and sense of power in giving pleasure. Is her writing just a continuation of this?
Or is she as she appears a fragile girl trapped in a woman body, yearning for relationship, yet believing herself unworthy?

Then again she admits to being very selfish, and always looking out for number one.

The Great Contreversary

W.P. Kinsella and Evelyn Lau dated for 2 and a half years as I touched upon earlier. Now there is a great law suit going on between the two. It is a case of "he said, she said". It all started with a short story written by Kinsella entitled "The Lonesome Polecat" that portrays a may-December relationship, between an older man and young Vietnamese woman, who was a former prostitute and drug user. In response to this Mrs Lau wrote an article for a Vancouver magazine entitled "W.P. and Me". In which she belittles him, reveals things about their relationship, and suggests that she was disgusted by his age, infirmity, body and sexual powers. And yet they were together for close to 3 years. In relation to faith quests this applies 2 ways, first Mrs Lau, is true to her statement of not believe in good or bad. Or at least she doesn't care about being good, fair and nice. This is further stresses in her most recent book "Other Women", about a may -December affair that ends badly and has admitted it is about her. Also in regards to Kinsella, based upon Kinsells'a dreams that Mrs Lau reveals in her article , he is not quite the atheist he makes himself out to be. maybe even his atheist persona is a shield to separate himself from the softness seen in his books.


I would Like to end with a Quote from Robert Fulghum, on a much more positive note: called I Believe

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge
That myth is more potent than history
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts-
That hope always triumphs over experience-

That laughter is the only cure for grief
And I believe that love is stronger than death.!"

Thank you and are there any questions?

(First written for RS100C Faith Quests Summer 1998.)

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