Session 2: Spirituality and Illumination
So the God pod was a barrel of laughs. No really! You gotta hand it to this group of powerful speakers that they managed to include a good dose of humour and levity into a relatively serious subject.
In the beginning there was Eric Weiner, our philosophical traveller. His thesis was that place matters when it comes to spirituality. An interesting idea in our contemporary world of instant messaging across the planet. Looking at the question of happiness from a different angle – where are people most happy – Weiner suggested that there are what he calls “thin places”, where the distance between heaven and earth collapse and we get a glimpse of the transcendent. Where we are affects not only our happiness and our creativity, but our spirituality.
Jana Riess, our second speaker, tweeted the entire Bible, each chapter summed up in 140 characters or less! A self-described Sunday school dropout, Riess embarked on a project to try out a range of spiritual practices and discovered that she wasn’t any good at observance, or as she put it that she wasn’t ‘contemplative’ enough. But what she did discover was that failure itself was the best spiritual practice she had found. She left urging the audience to have a good belly laugh today, because “if you’re deadly serious, you’re seriously dead”. Amen.
Gretta Vosper shared her own difficult journey through a crisis of leadership. After struggling with the problems of religion in our contemporary world, Vosper admitted to her congregation one Sunday from the pulpit that she did not believe in an interventionist God. She argued that the idea of a God who makes everything alright in the end and has a higher purpose for us all is the source of much complacency in religion these days. Vosper thus thought it wise to do away with the notion of God as source, agent and promise, and to replace that with the idea of bringing our own human wisdom to life’s challenges. Subsequently she established a religious community built on love, compassion, beauty and truth.
African-American Rabbi Capers Funnye asked “what does a Jew look like?” and his eloquent response was that the Jews have always been a global people and they look like the people of the countries in which they are found. As a Rabbi responsible for congregations in Africa, he argues for a new and pressing mission for Judaism: to open its institutions as places of welcome for spiritual seekers. He argued that this will help the spread and support of democracy across Africa and the world. He ended with a description of the plight of Jewish parents who adopt African American children and fear the day these children might feel they have to choose to be either African American or Jewish. Changing our attitudes and our understanding of difference is to see that they can be both.
After so much talk of spirituality the audience was treated to some amazing illusions from master of magic Simon Coronel. Turning a fin into a fifty was his first trick, followed by a stunning card trick he performed all in fluent Mandarin!
What an illuminating and fabulous morning this has been.
You can see all the full bios of our speakers on this page under the IDEACITY 2012 tab.