I began a new class yesterday (yes, another one!), it's called, Theology and Contemporary Spiritualities, and is essentially an exploration of new developments in faith and belief in the 21st century. It's a fairly small class, under twenty, which is unusual for me, but I think it will prove helpful with this class. We are going to do some field work as well as the usual class discussion stuff--I think you have to expose yourself to what is going on, and experience it personally, in order to grasp what is going on--the students seem game to dive in, I don't think any of them have actually visited an alternative spiritual gathering of any kind, which is surprising/not surprising. Fortunately, this is Los Angeles, and there are rich pickings here when it comes to varieties of religious expression, if something is going on in the world chances are that it will be happening here as well. We began yesterday by exploring the various shifts in consciousness and understanding that have set the stage for what is emerging today.
I began with Mark Tansey's painting, Bridge over the Cartesian Gap. Tansey is a unique artist (I recommend Mark Taylor's book The Picture in Question, a great exploration of the artist's work), he paints in monochrome and essentially explores contemporary semiotic and philosophical ideas through his work-the end of representation via representation-anyway his painting shows a a two-way journey occurring over a huge stone bridge that just sort of hangs in space--no visible beginning or ending--men carrying a variety of things--a canoe, a briefcase--are moving back and forth across. As you look closely at the stone, text begins to emerge--it is taken from Paul De Man's book, Blindness and Insight--two important elements in the contemporary moment I think. As we traverse the bridge between the world we have known and the one we are coming to know, we carry stuff--useful and useless--what will we need in the new world? It's hard to say, we have some idea (insight) but we are also just groping our way (blindness). What I do know, is that what worked before, no longer works today, for the most part, and I am speaking particularly about religion--crossing this bridge has brought s into a brave new religious situation, one that presents as many challenges as opportunities to institutional religions like Christianity. Anyway, that is what I am up to in the world of academic theology this term--it is going to be a lot of work but it should be fun.