gratitude, inspiration, on the shoulders of giants, role models, will.i.am, Black Eyed Peas, A Day in the Life, the Word of God, Toronto Blessing, Toronto revival, nature and spirituality, Christian community
One of my friends recently said something to me about theology and spirituality, and off we went on a deep discussion of religious community. Suddenly we were discussing Calvinism and the purpose of church structure and I had to stop and wonder: how did we come to know so much about these things? Surely most people in their twenties aren’t quite as informed as my friend and I about what the New Testament had to say about community living and the spiritual dynamics involved in church power struggles. That is when I realized just how much my parents’ involvement and my friend’s parents’ involvement in a deeply spiritual Christian community in the 1970s informed my own writing interests.
My writing at the moment heavily focuses on nature and spirituality and the relationship between them. A love of nature seems to have been injected in my veins in vitro, but the spirituality? Maybe I can’t take as much credit for that as I would like to. It surprises many people to learn that my sophisticated, nerdy, middle-class parents were Jesus People, members of the Word of God community in Ann Arbor during the height of the Charismatic Renewal. (Translation: Christian Hippies.) I grew up thinking it was normal to go to church on Sunday morning and then turn around and go to a community prayer meeting in the evening, to have Presbyterians worshiping alongside Catholics, to have mentors who seemed to value spiritual growth above all else. That same spiritual drive in my parents led us to Toronto for the Toronto Blessing revival in 1996, which became a pivotal event in my life and my understanding of spirituality and religion. And even my parents’ decision to leave the church I grew up in, which had grown out of the community life of the Word of God, heavily affected my experience of grief with a dysfunctional religious body in my twenties. And there is the theme of my first novel.
I begin to think that we all stand on the shoulders of giants in one way or another. In watching A Day in the Life yesterday featuring Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, I took away not his focus on helping young people who started out with tough beginnings but the influence his mother had on his success. He still thinks about what she would say and if she would approve if he says something on stage. Even coming from east L.A., he stands on the shoulders of his mother, not his circumstances, and that informs his success. How has your life’s work, your passions, and your character been shaped by people who went before you? They say every new invention simply builds on previous inventions, that every work of art is inspired by others that went before. I’m beginning to think we all ARE works of art inspired by the giants on whose shoulders we stand.