Tag Archives: memory

Transcending Memory

I am usually in bed by 9:30, to fall asleep reading by 10:15, 10:30 or so. It’s been years since 10pm marked the start of my evening rather than its end. But last night I made an exception, trudging out of the house at 9:20pm and making my way down to The Power Plant at the Toronto Harbourfront to see if I could pull an all-nighter to watch a good chunk of Christian Marclay’s, The Clock.

I expected long lines and a minimum 1-2, probably 3, hour wait, which is I why I aimed to be there for 10. I wanted to be in the room when the clock struck midnight. But I arrived just in time to be the last person let in before the line-ups began.

The Clock is a 24 hour video compilation of short clips from films (and some tv shows), each of which contains some reference to the time, Continue reading

Bilbao: Part 2 – The Scattering

I wrote before I left for Spain that I didn’t know how I’d feel when I reached Santiago, but that my first pilgrimage was actually to Bilbao – and the walk proved me true.

We reached the city about a week in. By that point we’d made some good friends, a couple in particular, and we were treasuring our final moments with them. I think we all knew the good-bye was approaching, and this allowed us to push into our rapidly expanding intimacy with a little more courage than an expanse of time allows. Tyler, walking with our Brazilian lawyer friend tested and expanded the limits of language barriers Continue reading

Piano, Piano. Suave, Suave.

The dinner table is lively with multi-lingual conversation, but I am mostly slumped in my chair in pain. Day 2 of the Camino, and it’s our first time sharing in the “Pilgrim Meal.” Pilgrim meals in Basque country (the first 1/4 of the Camino Norte) are served around 7:30, about an hour before the restaurant opens for regular dinner service (I believe so the other customers don’t have to smell us). They cost about $10, and have a couple of hearty courses, plus bread, dessert and as much wine as you can drink. They are awesome. But I’m feeling beat. I’ve done something stupid to my right shoulder. And so the scarf I brought with me so I could feel like I had one pretty thing is now wrapped as a sling holding my arm in place so that I don’t wrench my shoulder something worse. Each person who joins us at the table points at my arm with one hand while pouring themselves a mug of wine with the other, and asks me in their own language, what’s wrong? “Oh,” I say in English and begin miming (though even miming hurts), “I’ve pulled my shoulder. I’m trying to keep it still. I’m sure it will get better,” even though I’m panicking inside that it won’t. Continue reading

Praying in Pictures

Last week I wrote about how faith crises can lead to identity crises – if my life is organized by my faith, a loss of faith tends to result in a loss of order to my world, a loss of understanding about who I am within that order. But there have also been moments in the midst of that crisis when I have experienced the surprise of grace, where I have experienced a fresh perspective on God that has come, it seems, as a pure gift from God. This week I want to share a story about that happened in the midst of teaching.

I teach theology – this is a vocation so deeply connected to my faith, that it’s difficult to picture it from a place of weak faith. How can I teach my students to preach the gospel when I’m not all that sure of the gospel myself? How can I teach my students about God’s love when I’m not all that sure God loves me… Continue reading

Accidentally Dying to Self

I shared last week about how writing a dissertation chapter about the forgetfulness of God started to feel like I was slowly killing God…not by crucifixion, as an orthodox view might have it, but by the slow deterioration of dementia and aged decline.

In a sense, I was trying to frame the ways in which our post-Christian culture tends to view God – as diminished, ineffectual and humiliated. Initially, with the project, I was wondering: if we think carefully about how our culture views God, perhaps we can think more honestly about how we might embody God’s grace and love within that culture…particularly for those people who are marginalized because they are seen to embody similar characteristics to those I was exploring in God. But the writing process didn’t result in such a joyful faith-based stance. Instead, as I felt the death of God, I realized I was also participating in a death to self. Continue reading

God’s Forgetfulness

I ended up erasing the final chapter of my dissertation and replacing it with another. The one I initially intended was simply too much of a mess, and too risky to do well with the limited time (and, more importantly, limited skill) I possessed in that moment.

In a nutshell, the constructive theological moments in my dissertation were all inspired by conversations between my own academic theological ways of speaking and the everyday theological ways of speaking articulated by people in my church (this conversational process was more formalized through certain forms of academic methods, but I won’t bore you with that here). The final chapter was inspired by a conversation about God’s eternal nature in one of the Sunday night theology classes I taught at the church.

One of the women in the class said that some time she spent with a friend who had Alzheimer’s Disease had helped her to understand God’s eternity Continue reading

The Enchantment of Nostalgia

In his beautiful book, Berlin Childhood around 1900, Walter Benjamin endeavors to narrate his childhood years without the tinge of nostalgia, but nevertheless, in a way that is enchanted. Nostalgia, he implies, and I agree, does not enable but, rather, undoes the magic of enchantment. Nostalgia – the past idealized – is a weapon easily employed by fascism. It paralyzes our ability to live with our past integrated honestly with our present. It undermines the possibilities of liberation in our future.

Theological themes of memory and nostalgia captivate my imagination. How can we remember well? Continue reading