The Endless Quest: on religious dissatisfaction and wide-open spiritual seeking

endless quest blog picFront Porch aficionados are, if anything, seekers, endless seekers. That doesn’t mean being weak-willed, indecisive, or unable to commit. Quite the contrary. It means being attentively, thoughtfully, courageously in touch with the way thing are, the way things move and change, hopefully deepening and gaining in wisdom, endlessly. That’s just the way things seem to work in the human condition, unless one inauthentically tries to freeze the process or just gives up on the search.

 

One of the 20th century’s most distinguished philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre described this kind of seeking as a “quest.” It is a quest that is, “not at all a search for something already adequately characterized…but always an education both as to the character of that which is sought and in self-knowledge.”

 

Here is a particularly rich example of such a quest, I think, from Joe Klein, a well-known columnist and author. Currently, he writes a weekly column in Time magazine. He is a real favorite of mine, and I try not to miss any of his commentary. Klein has read widely and deeply in social and political theory. Recently he authored a Time cover story on the response of citizens and various organizations and churches to natural disasters in the US. He commented on the remarkable extent to which it seemed that religious organizations and people predominated in coming to the aid of devastated communities.

 

Apparently that elicited lots of protest from readers who insisted that plenty of non-religious or secular individuals were just as sensitive to human suffering and just as altruistic as religious folk. Of course, they’re right. But Klein still felt that his observations were correct, and that set him to thinking about what it all meant. In response, he wrote the following entry on the Time “Swampland” blog. I found it to be a fascinating example of questing or seeking in our postmodern times, marked by enormous dissatisfaction with established churches and religious dogma and yet a great deal of wide-open spiritual seeking.

Monday, October 14th

ruby jane as girlGreetings, Front Porchers. While preparing for Ruby Jane to play Actually Unplugged–Thursday at 8:00 in the All Saints’ sanctuary–we’ve been thinking a lot about talent. Ruby Jane’s incredible ability was recognized when she was only four years old, which is obviously exceptional compared to most of us (at that age, I had difficulty in selecting outfits for myself which didn’t involve capes), but  even for those of us who aren’t prodigies, to what do we attribute talent?

Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the idea of the ten thousand hours required for expertise in any field, but that seems unlikely when applied to a four-year-old. Savants, young and old, can be found throughout history, from the toddler virtuoso Mozart to septuagenarian painting master Grandma Moses. How do we explain these phenomenal individuals, who possess abilities incommensurate with their experience? Are they granted their mastery by some divine agency? Are they born with a unique combination of genes that allows them to pick up a skill faster than seems possible?  Are they shaped by minute pressures, too small to measure, from their environments? Are they just lucky? Is it some combination of these things or something else?

We don’t have the answer here on the Front Porch. All we can do is talk about it with each other, maybe inching closer to a truth, and be thankful that these marvelous and unlikely people are around.ruby jane older

Monday, October 7th

Happy Monday, everybody. We’ve got a few things coming up that we’d like you to know about. We’re going to be wrapping up our Elephant in the Room series on Apocalypse at 7:00 on Wednesday in the All Saints’ parish hall with a showing of Fresh, a documentary about the struggles of small agriculture in the modern world, and a discussion afterwards. And don’t forget that next week, Actually Unplugged returns to All Saints’ with Ruby Jane.

On a more somber note, it was twenty-three years ago today that Matthew Shepard was attacked and beaten in Laramie, Wyoming, leading to his death six days later. The growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the years since shows that we, as a society, are progressing, but that we have to travel a great distance yet to be a community that humbly accepts all its members, regardless of their differences. As this acceptance is one of the core values of the Front Porch, we ask that you remember the importance of dialogue, especially with people you disagree with, and that you keep on talking with one another and with us; it’s the only way we can make this crazy world work.

Monday, October 7th

Happy Monday, everybody. We’ve got a few things coming up that we’d like you to know about. We’re going to be wrapping up our Elephant in the Room series on Apocalypse at 7:00 on Wednesday in the All Saints’ parish hall with a showing of Fresh, a documentary about the struggles of small agriculture in the modern world, and a discussion afterwards. And don’t forget that next week, Actually Unplugged returns to All Saints’ with Ruby Jane.

On a more somber note, it was twenty-three years ago today that Matthew Shepard was attacked and beaten in Laramie, Wyoming, leading to his death six days later. The growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the years since shows that we, as a society, are progressing, but that we have to travel a great distance yet to be a community that humbly accepts all its members, regardless of their differences. As this acceptance is one of the core values of the Front Porch, we ask that you remember the importance of dialogue, especially with people you disagree with, and that you keep on talking with one another and with us; it’s the only way we can make this crazy world work.

APOCALYPSE 2: October 2

elephant in room logoEvery day, more people claim to see evidence that the end times are upon us. Doomsday preppers readying survival shelters and gear in anticipation of a violent and large-scale overthrow of society; discoveries about the nature of things, on galactic and subatomic scales, only reaffirm our frailty; a surge in interest in zombies and the supernatural indicates that we, as a culture, are anxious. It’s enough to make anyone look for answers.

The Apocalypse series will draw these anxieties into the open and engage them through intelligent discussion with a panel of experts whose areas of knowledge range from the Book of Revelation to the fall of the great empires past to the great environmental uncertainties to come. Join us in listening and talking about what this obsession with the apocalypse means and help us engage it and harness its force into something creative and sustainable. These discussions take place at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 7-9pm

The second event of this series is scheduled this Wednesday, October 2nd, and will feature Dr. Samuel J. Wilson and KUT’s Ben Philpott conversing about the fall of a major civilization, and talking about the conditions and results for that fall pertinent to the contemporary political climate.

The Apocalypse: September 25

apocalypseEvery day, more people claim to see evidence that the end times are upon us. Doomsday preppers readying survival shelters and gear in anticipation of a violent and large-scale overthrow of society; discoveries about the nature of things, on galactic and subatomic scales, only reaffirm our frailty; a surge in interest in zombies and the supernatural indicates that we, as a culture, are anxious. It’s enough to make anyone look for answers.

The Apocalypse series will draw these anxieties into the open and engage them through intelligent discussion with a panel of experts whose areas of knowledge range from the Book of Revelation to the fall of the great empires past to the great environmental uncertainties to come. Join us in listening and talking about what this obsession with the apocalypse means and help us engage it and harness its force into something creative and sustainable.

The first event will feature Dr. Jane Patterson discussing the Book of Revelation in its context as a historical and socioeconomic document from first-century Asia Minor, and discussing its modern implications. The second event will feature Dr. Samuel J. Wilson and KUT’s Ben Philpott conversing about the fall of a major civilization, and talking about the conditions and results for that fall pertinent to the contemporary political climate. The third event will be a showing of the movie Fresh, followed by a moderated discussion about environmentalism and stewardship.

 

Weekly update: September 19

Hello, Front Porchers, and happy seventy-third birthday to Otis Redding. It’s busy over here on the Porch. Actually Unplugged is next Thursday, featuring Guy Forsyth. The Wednesday after that, we kick off the newest incarnation of our Elephant in the Room series; the opener will star Dr. Jane Patterson and focus on the Book of Revelation. We just had a very productive board meeting, which helped us settle a few questions we’ve been mulling over. We’ve got a lot of other things in the works, so keep checking back.

 

If you’ve read or seen High Fidelity, you’re familiar with the protagonist’s obsession with Top Five lists as a way to organize the chaos of his life. My father, while nowhere near as neurotic, is locally infamous for collecting and archiving his family’s and friends’ Top Tens. For example, I can email him and find out what my favorite albums were twelve years ago, which is an excellent exercise in humility. On that note, and considering the importance of music to the Front Porch’s mission, I’m interested in hearing what everyone’s top five favorite albums are. For the record, mine are Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case, Kiko by Los Lobos, Black Eyes by the Black Eyes, Cold Roses by Ryan Adams, and Wiretap Scars by Sparta. Share your top five, or just mock mine.

September 19–Guy Forsythe

GuyForsyth_300x225Our first Actually Unplugged concert in the All Saints’ sanctuary was a rousing success thanks to all of you who showed up. Let’s keep the ball rolling for the next entry. At 8:00 on Thursday, September 19, get ready for the legendary Guy Forsythe. We hope you’re as excited for it as we are.

 

Weekly Update: August 19

I should probably start off with an introduction. My name is Tito Kohout, and, as of two weeks ago, I’m the Community Curator here at the Front Porch. What does a Community Curator do? Boy, that’s a good question, and I don’t have any not-vague way to answer it. I’m writing press releases and working on getting the website updated and acting as a sounding board for Padre Kinney’s ideas. Things are good.

 

This is shaping up to be a good week for the Front Porch. We’ve got a big event scheduled for 7:00 on Thursday in the All Saints’ sanctuary. In conjunction with the Live Music Capital Foundation, we’re presenting Will Taylor and Strings Attached with John Pointer, who are as talented a bunch of musicians as you’ll find anywhere. Come on out for some awesome tunes in an awesome acoustic space.

 

We’ve got plenty of other events on tap, as well. Check out our calendar section. We should have the line-ups finalized for the newest incarnation of the Elephant in the Room series, which is going to be about the apocalypse. We’ve had a lot of fun in the office brainstorming about it with each other and anyone else we can rope into a discussion, and we’re pretty sure it’s going to be just as entertaining for everyone else.
Our other news is that we’re working on acquiring our own space. All Saints’ has been great (and getting a key to the church I attended as a kid has made my nine-year-old self cackle maniacally), but getting our own space is going to be really exciting. Stay posted.

NEW MUSIC SERIES STARTS AUGUST 22nd

will taylorAUSTIN, TX – Two local non-profits are partnering to produce a fall concert series that will showcase live music in a unique acoustic space.

The Front Porch and The Live Music Capital Foundation are kicking off the “Actually Unplugged” fall concert series on August 22 at 8 p.m. at the All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

The first concert in the series will feature two Austin Music Award Winners: Will Taylor and Strings Attached and John Pointer. “I’m really looking forward to this concert series,” said John Pointer. “I think the audience will be fascinated by how powerful music is, even when it’s unamplified.”

The fall concert series will continue through December on the third Thursday of every month. All shows will take place at the All Saints’ Episcopal Church and a $10 donation is suggested.

The Front Porch works to cultivate the community with live music, discussions, events and gatherings in Austin.

The Live Music Capital Foundation gives donors a place to put community capital into local live music, improving the concert experience for everyone.