Friday, December 16, 2016

Awake My Soul

Awake My Soul-Mumford & Sons from Scott Wright on Vimeo.

       Two weeks ago, I finished teaching my Fall Interterm course "Angels in the Architecture" at DU. This is a one-week "Intro-to-world-religions-through-their-buildings-in-Denver" course. Over the five days, we visited thirteen different worship sites, from Buddhist to Greek Orthodox, Hare Krishna to Quaker. As had been the case last year, when I taught it the first time, it was a whirlwind, but also such a rich week of conversations with the presenters at each site, as well as with the students.*
       At the beginning of this week, I finished those "conversations" with the students -- that is, I finished reading/grading their final papers. Since the course is only partially about content, but more about how they experience the context through the buildings, assigning grades is difficult. It is made even harder because the experiences are so varied and the papers so personal. Many of the students, when asked by the presenters, were pretty vague about their religious affiliation. Some said they were just curious, others that they were "spiritual but not religious." That said, only one (out of eight) was brought up with no religious background. In other words, about 60% of the class had moved (some more forcefully than others) from the religious traditions of their birth . . . but yet took the class!
      What surprised me, then, as I was reading their final papers (which demanded quite a bit of personal reflection and interaction with the places/traditions we had visited) was how much at least ONE of the traditions appealed to the students. It wasn't the same tradition, and it certainly didn't suggest any kind of "conversion" on their part. But they were taken be either (or both) the buildings/practices or beliefs of at least one religious body . . . and in many cases it was quite different from how they'd been brought up.
       Certainly there can be many reasons for this. Some may have come from very rigid belief systems. Others from overly demanding religious officials/clergy. But I think there was something different, and that idea was sparked when I ran across the video linked above. I was searching for something quite unrelated, but this came up in the Google Search list, and I thought, "Hmmm.  Mumford & Sons on "Awake My Soul"! So, a click on the link, and I was taken to Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
        The video linkage between the lyrics and the photos was, to me, quite profound. Scott Wright, who put it together, seemed to capture a longing for a connection with something quite a bit larger than could be reduced to "truth" or "lies". That same "longing" came through in subtle ways in many of the papers I read earlier this week. And I think it is true for most of us. We are searching for something that will awaken our souls. This image may hold certain currency this month for Christians anticipating Christmas, or Jews marveling at the miracle behind the Hanukah lights, but it is not limited to those traditions, or this season.
        In whatever darkness, or uncertainty, we find ourselves, we long for our souls to awaken.
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker 

*Here is a
link to last year's refection on the week.

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