Spirituality, Nostalgia, and "Is This All There Is?"

Most of the academics I know have a secret (or not so secret) yearning to be "a writer," and if you ask them what that means, over coffee or a glass of something stronger, they'll tell you that they'd like to have a chance to do a different kind of writing than that required for journal articles, scholarly books, or (dreaded) professional and administrative communications.  Something that allowed them to write more freely, directly, whimsically, creatively.

Last year I got a chance to do just that. I received one of the nicest invitations that I've gotten in a long time, from editors working on a special feature for The Immanent Frame, a blog sponsored by the Social Science Research Council. They were starting a new feature, and soliciting posts from a wide range of scholars on the very general theme of "Is This All There Is?".  The resulting collection of essays is fascinating and worth browsing through, featuring, above all, some truly excellent writing about spirituality, longing, activism, purpose, meaning, and (in some cases) religion.  

I had a lot of fun writing my post, "Announcing Your Place in the Family of Things," using the poetry of Mary Oliver - a favorite contemporary writer and thinker - to articulate an approach to engagement with the "really real" that rejects nostalgia and is open to connections with believers and skeptics, the ardently religious and the ardently secular.  

Stock photo, free for download at pixabay.com, accessed 4/3/18

Stock photo, free for download at pixabay.com, accessed 4/3/18

Check out the post, and check out "Wild Geese," the poem that inspired the post.  .  . Also check out the other fine work by the editors, Courtney Bender and Nancy Levene.

And for readers who might themselves be academic writers, consider seeking out opportunities to write in this kind of format. It's freeing, and it focuses your mind and fosters creative connections you wouldn't make in other formats.