Hope Blog Relay: Hope, Worry, and the Future

Ed Blum handed me the baton. Now it’s my turn to take a leg in a blogging relay race. We’re writing about hope.

I struggle with hope because I am a worrier. I worry about everything. When I was in middle school there was a day that my parents had a mix up about who was going to pick me up at school. One of them finally arrived an hour late. I had spent the last forty-five minutes of that hour imagining that my parent’s had died in a terrible car crash. That’s why no one was there to pick me up. I was going to go live with my Uncle Stephen, at least that’s who I think I was suppose to go to, I wasn’t sure. My brother and I would have to move to Wilmington. I’d start at a new school. What if my brother was in the car too? It’d just be me and my uncle. At least he lived at the beach. I’d learn to surf.

I worry most about the future-not my own personal future, the big time where is humankind headed future. I worry about politics. I worry about civil society. I worry about public discourse. I worry that the systems are broken. I worry that the institutions are rotten. I worry that whatever I do will be futile to change the world for the better. I worry that evil is winning.

And yet, I hope. I hope because I have the privilege of taking  part in a community of scholars and students. I hope because of the students I taught last year, the questions they asked and the energy they put into understanding the material. I hope because of the colleagues I have who are dedicated to academic work that really matters. I hope because of their books and articles that make me marvel at their incisive analysis. I hope because of the bloggers who speak truth and decency. I hope because I hear other voices shouting answers to the worries I feel. I hope because there are places I look and see good triumphing over evil.

I hope because hope is the answer to worry. Hope refuses to give in to worry, fear, and, anxiety. Hope dispels fear, melts anxiety, and calms worry. I hope because to not hope would be to give up. So, I hope that my work amounts to something. I hope that my teaching impacts someone. I hope that my writing touches an audience. I hope that cooler heads prevail. I hope that wisdom is heard. I hope that institutions reform, minds expand, hearts grow, and good triumphs. I hope because in hope we can find strength for action.

Passing the Baton

I’ve run my leg of this relay, now it’s time to hand it off to….

Ta-Nehisi Coates- I figured I’d at least ask him if he’d do it.

Kelly J. Baker- She usually writes about hate but now we’ll see if she’ll write about hope.

Jermaine McDonald- My favorite ethicist and a source for all things civil religion.

James McCarty III- My other favorite ethicist.

Take it away folks!



Shut Up and Start Writing Week 5: IKEA edition

Random household chores got in my way this week. Part of those chores involved two trips to IKEA and two nights assembling furniture. That said, I think most of that stuff is done and I can finish out the summer with some heavy duty writing. I did not reach the 3000 words I had hoped but I got about 1000 on the screen and I wrote for at least one pomodoro 3 out of the 5 days. That’s not bad.
For this week I want to finish what I failed last week. At least one pomodoro every day and 3000 words by the end of the week. I need this chapter drafter by August 15.
How did yall do?

Writing Group Week 4: Free Bates Edition

I have no reason for the above picture. I just like it.

So, how was everyone’s week? Sorry for the late post. I’ll do better next week.

I hit my goal. I’ve got a good outline of where this chapter is heading. I still have some primary sources  to go through next week but I can do that as I write. I’m trying to remember the whole “write before your ready” adage as I tend to put off writing too long. So for next week, I want to spend at least one pomodoro period each day actually writing into the word processor and I want to get at least 3000 words into said word processor before the end of the week.

How yall doing?

Shut Up and Start Writing Week 3

How are things going for everyone? We’re two weeks in and I know this group has been super helpful for me. I have a tendency to piddle around in the early stages of a new chapter. Having a clear goal for the week definitely pushed me to figure it all out. I did reach my goal and I have a nice list of sources that I will be going through this coming week. My goal this week is to go through the sources and come up with a very general outline of where this chapter is going. I wrote a blog post this past week that was me thinking out loud a bit about the chapter and I have some general idea of some themes I’m intrigued by. By the end of the week, though, I want a good solid outline of the major points/figures/texts I’m going to work through in the chapter.

What about yall? How’s it going? What can we do to help you? What’s your goal for this week?

Just remember, Success Kid loves you and is proud of you.

Transcendentalists and the Smoke Monster of Religion

I’ve made it to the Transcendentalists! The chapter on Unitarian and evangelical ideas about Hinduism is done and passed along to The Adviser. Now, I’m changing gears. The chapters I’ve written so far were exercises in uncovering. Only a couple previous studies had looked at the materials and so my basic work was to dig up representations and descriptions of Hinduism in sources and relate them to the larger context of American culture during the period. For example, only a couple of people have written about Rammohun Roy’s impact in the West and only Carl T. Jackson has really considered how he impacted America. So I had a lot of space to dive deep into the sources and make my arguments about the significance of Rammohun Roy for the history Hinduism in America and the history of American religious cultures.

But now I’m writing about Transcendentalists. There are a lot of books about Transcendentalists. I’ve also caught up with the narrative. Most histories of religion in America argue that the Transcendentalists were the first Americans to show interest in Asian religions-Arthur Christy’s The Orient in American Transcendentalism (1932) did the most to cement that claim. So, there’s a lot of secondary literature on Asian religions, and especially Hinduism, in Transcendentalist thought. That’s the list of call numbers I took with me to the library this week on the left. Now my challenge shifts. It’s not about digging up stuff no one’s found, it’s about finding a new angle on the stuff we already know about. I find this much harder and  much less exciting.

The question of how American’s construct the category “religion” has emerged as a consistent theme in the early chapters of this project and I think it might be my way to cut a path through the underbrush of the Transcendentalist rainforest. Most of the research on Asian religions and Transcendentalism take “religion” for granted. (BTW, there’s a whole discussion of when we should or should not take this term for granted in our writing. But that’s a whole different post.)  There are these religions in Asia and these folks in America “discover” these religions and somehow these religions influences their thinking and writing. But why did Thoreau or Emerson or Alcott recognize the Bhagavad Gita or the Laws of Menu as religious? I think John Modern’s Secularism in Antebellum America, which I’ve started but not yet finished, will be helpful on this point. Secularism makes “religion” as a category possible. It sets the horizons for a “religion” that is a chosen, believed, and, most importantly, can be categorized, be borrowed from, and influence people. All talk of Asian religions “influencing” the Transcendentalists gives agency to religion. Religion does stuff. It’s a virus. Or maybe a smoke monster. The clearest expression of this is Lydia Maria Child’s Progress of Religious Ideas, Through Successive Ages. Compare Child’s title with Hannah Adams’ A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations, Jewish, Heathen, Mahometan and Christian, Ancient and Modern. Religion progresses for Child. It has movement. Adams’ certainly has a progressive view of religion in her dictionary, as I argue in my chapter about it. But that movement, that agency, is more pronounced by 1855 when Child writes. This thing, religion, that was invented in the 18th century has gotten more power, more agency-maybe?

So the challenge for me-my way toward a fresh take on Transcendentalism and Hinduism-is to trace the invention of religion as this viral, smoke monstery, agent through Transcendentalist encounters with Hindu religious culture. Now, let’s just hope no one in the stack of books beside me has done that already.

Shut Up and Start Writing: Week 2- The Starting Pistol

BANG! And we’re off.  Alright folks, time to check in with what you did this week and what your goal is for next week.

I actually got the chapter I’ve been working on revised and emailed to my adviser. So, if Dennis got his done too, that adviser should have a nice batch of summer reading. For next week, I’m starting a new chapter and I’d like to have a list of sources I need to go through put together by the end of the week. I’ll give myself bonus points if I can actually get through some of those sources. So, did I earn a sticker?

And what about yall? How was the first week? Did you start strong? Stumble out of the blocks? What can we do to help you? And what’s your goal for next week?


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