i'm just an educator stumbling upon new ways to do my job better (i hope)

God, According to Corrigan

This month, I've been reading Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann.  I'm enjoying it in a way I haven't enjoyed a book for a long time.  It's bringing me back to the feeling I had reading books in high school.  I'm constantly struck by the language, the writing, the allusions, the structure.  I can't remember being moved like this by a book in a long time.

I even brought out my pen.  I've never been much for writing in my books.  Reading to analyze requires a pen; reading for pleasure does not.  When I used to teach a book, I would buy a copy specifically to teach from, so that I could write in it--but I always kept a clean copy.  This book makes me want to bring out my pen.  I've been underlining and starring passages, taking notes and writing questions.  It's like being in school again.

The passage below is from early in the book, and it just rang true for me.  I've been thinking about religion a lot lately, and this is very similar to the way I'd like God to be.  I'm planning to take a tour of churches around Richmond, and I've been to the Quaker meeting house twice this month.  The second time, I even read Let the Great World Spin at Meeting.  Enough.  Here's the passage:

"Corrigan told me once that Christ was quite easy to understand.  He went where He was supposed to go. He stayed where He was needed.  He took little or nothing along, a pair of sandals, a bit of a shirt, a few odds and ends to stave off the loneliness.  He never rejected the world.  If he had rejected it, He would have been rejecting mystery.  And if He rejected mystery, He would have been rejecting faith.

What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday.  The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth--the filth, the war, the poverty--was that life could be capable of small beauties.  He wasn't interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven.  To him that was a dressing room for hell.  Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same.He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it.  Out of that came some sort of triumph that went beyond theological proof, a cause for optimism against all the evidence."


This morning I brought my book to the Quaker Meetinghouse.  This was my second time going to Meeting.  The first time I didn't find it to be especially powerful, mainly because I fear I'm not spiritually centered enough to sit in silence for an hour and not have distracted thoughts.
It seems, though, that at Meeting you're allowed to bring along aides, of sorts.  A book of poems, a Bible, anything to get your creative and spiritual juices flowing--so long, I assume, as it doesn't make noise.
So I brought my book.  Let the Great World Spin deals with religion and spirituality, both directly and indirectly.  It's made me think a lot about God and religion, and I thought I could read it at Meeting and still respect the spirituality of the place and the experience.
It was a wonderful experience.  From a reading perspective, it was enlightening because I'd forgotten what it was like to be in a silent space, with no phone, computer, movement, or anything to distract me.  I was able to really focus on my book.
Except for when I didn't focus on my book.  At times, the book pushed me out, to questions and thoughts of God (if you will), of justice, beauty, and words.  It was perhaps the most religious experience I've ever had.  And it happened in an hour in a room in which no one said a word.


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January 2010 Books