Thursday, May 03, 2007

Writing, Religion and Spirituality

In our writers' group meeting this week, we listened to each other read our writing and were able to make constructive suggestions to each other. Our final discussion was of a passage which centered on a spiritual experience. We had more difficulty with this one. It was interesting to me that of all the topics we discussed, spirituality should be the only one (so far) which has caused us any problems. Spirituality or lack thereof seems to be a very emotional topic for at least some people. There are people for whom their spirituality is their lifeline, those for whom the mention of spirituality recalls for them bad memories of religion being forced on them or or disappointments arising from unmet expectations of God. Others think the whole idea of spirituality is silly and illogical. Some don't seem to know what to think of the whole topic. It occurred to me that the difficulty of listening to others talk about religious and spiritual views which differ from our own is part of what makes nations war with each other. We can't change the whole world by tolerating differing beliefs, but at least it is a start.
(Westminster Abbey)


Sybil said...

Well said, Joe, in your "Writing, Religion, and Spirituality" May 3rd column. I'm one for whom spirituality is my lifeline, but I aim to respect and listen to where others are coming from. Perhaps we need some of the first half hour of business time (or a little more) next time to ask for more respect, so our group will last a long time.

Margay Blackman said...

Joe, I think spirituality/religion/faith complicated the issue here which was ultimately not about those topics but about writing. Bill put it so well when he remarked that the burden of the narrative (and ultimately of the author) was to convince the reader. In this case some readers, perhaps beause of their own faith, readily identified with what the characters experienced; others needed more words in order to understand. I am reminded of what one of my first professors growled to us as new graduate students: "Always assume that your reader is a 12 year old idiot who is personally hostile towards you." (Not, of course, that I aspire to be a hostile reader towards anyone!) Margay