If we were to fashion a bar graph of Things Dana Likes, books and people would be tall towers, soaring over the rest of the things (bacon, banjos, bluegrass and the Blue Ridge, to name the “Letter B” category, for instance). I’ve discovered – belatedly, and to my own delighted surprise – that I like people slightly more than I like books. Someone even recently complimented me on my pronunciation of the word – PEOPLE – one of the kindest and most winsome compliments I’ve ever received.
But I still love books a lot. And I miss reading them in an orderly and pointed way. I want someone to hand me a syllabus at the beginning of each year, a list of curated books all bent toward answering some pressing and relevant question. I want a peer-reviewed selection of smart things written by sharp people in an attempt to make sense of some absurd portion of the human experience.
I want to know how to live a sustainable faith. I want to know how, in the face of crushing absurdity, mounting violence and institutional collapse, reasonable or revolutionary people keep their heads in the game and their hearts open wide. Working with people is a sure and persistent way to run up against the vanity of vanities, the insufferable systems and unflinching cruelty of our world. In the past few years, I’ve had the privilege to be with people in the face of sprawling enterprises of injustice: the immigration system, mental health treatment mazes, courtrooms, hospital beds, funeral homes, racism and bigotry, poverty. People are always having to nudge their lives up against these massive leviathans, and it inevitably results in pain, loss of hope, ridicule, disrespect.
I want to know how this theology I profess stays alive in the face of all that. Because its claim is not only survival but actual, corporeal, unbelievable resurrectional transformation.
So, I made my own syllabus, and I’ve started reading. And then I started this blog, with the intent to write about people, and how I’ve discovered that I love them. Here’s my plan: I’m going to read some serious books, and I’m going to go be with people, and then I’m going to come here and write about how each of the two informs the other. Read, be, write. That’s the proposal. I’m gonna need some accountability, and I’m gonna need some conversation partners. I’ll try to be good about replying to comments, and would love it if you’d share your perspective, whether you agree or disagree with mine. Actually, I’d especially love it if you’d share your disagreement. Iron sharpens iron, eh?
First up: William Cavanaugh’s Torture and Eucharist. Look for it later this week.