I found a clip from a NBC Today Show interview with Miles from 1982. Bryant Gumbel did the interview. It is an interesting confirmation of something I'm working on just now--call it 'carnal knowing' which has to do not with sex, as some readers might imagine, but with bodily knowing. This is the kind of learning, knowing, that takes practice to acquire but practice does not mean you acquire it. It is part of my current long-term research project and something I've mentioned in this space before. My point is that this form of knowing applies just as much to presiding at communion, preaching, etc. in ministry but that it has been undervalued because of the kind of knowing dominant in higher education: disengaged, rational, 'from the shoulders up'.
BG: Do you know right off the bat which musicians you like, who is good and who is not, who is not going to work out and who is gonna be with you . . .
MD: Yea, I get that feelin'.
BG: What do you look for? Can you tell us? Is it something you can describe or is it . . .
MD: First thing I look at in a musician is [undecipherable], what he wears, how he talks, how he walks, and when he lifts, picks up the instrument, his approach to the instrument, you know, he doesn't stumble with it, you know, they pick it up like it is part of their body, just an extension of their body, you know what I'm saying, then you can almost tell how he's gonna play.
p.s. if you listen to the interview, get a load of his view of contemporary music and the food analogy!
An amazing conference is happening among some of the leading social theorists globally gathering to both consider and, I think, assist Robert Bellah in his work on religious evolution and the key concept of the axial age. Something to watch, for sure, as it has profound implications on our understand of the present (just see Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, for example, to see that).
A really interesting article on "new habits" got me thinking about the relation between habit and cognition, bodily practice in creativity and learning, and the limited ways we moderns have for thinking about knowing. This is something I was just reading about in Charles Taylor's book, A Secular Age (yes, I'm still reading, trying to finish by the end of May. I'm on page 618, so the end is near.) He wrote (p. 615) in a section on the long process of 'excarnation' in Latin Christendom:
"If we think of the three levels of human linguistic-communicative activity in its broadest sense: one of bodily habitus and mimicry, one of symbolic expression in art, poetry, music, dance; and one of prose, descriptive language; we can say that aboriginal religious life was mainly couched in the first two, but that the culture which emerges from modern Western Reform has largely abandoned these, and confines itself to the third.
The rationalist paradigm that took hold of professional education--and theological education as well--over the last two hundred years has overemphasized detached cognitive reasoning. It has also overemphasized the individual thinker in whose mind such reasoning takes place. One of the reasons for common work (either in classroom settings or in a practical theology research laboratory such as I've described here) is that it allows for a richer conception of human thinking and communication to come to the fore.
My next project has to do with an epistemology of professional practice, looking at ministry in particular, and the beginnings of the project are outlined in my chapter contribution to a new book in practical theology titled For Life Abundant, available now, (see ch. 11, titled: "Learning Ministry over Time: Embodying Practical Wisdom"). The ideas there are woven through other chapters, too, and the concern is highlighted for further consideration in the book's last section titled: "In Anticipation" (isn't that a nice alternative to "conclusion" as if we'd wrapped up all that needed to be said . . . not!)
Affirming the intelligence of practice
Texts and propositions alone cannot carry or communicate the knowledge of God’s grace in Christ that is at the heart of Christian existence. This lifegiving knowledge, which dwells in the bodies of believers and in the Body they comprise, is gained through forms of active and receptive participation that engage a wide range of human capacities. Likewise, the specific practices by which we respond to God’s grace — practices such as prayer, forgiveness and hospitality — bear knowledge of God, ourselves and the world that cannot be reduced to words, even though words are often important in helping us to learn and participate faithfully in them. Such practices embody certain kinds of wisdom and foster certain kinds of intelligence when engaged in serious and critical ways. The practice of Christian ministry also requires and imbues forms of knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence that include but reach far beyond mere cognition. Practical theology serves the church and the world by honoring and articulating such knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence as they emerge in actual persons and communities, and by considering how they might most faithfully be deepened and shared for the sake of abundant life. In doing so, practical theology seeks to clarify the intelligence of practice without reducing it, and to query its reasons even while acknowledging that it is impossible fully to comprehend either the concrete uniqueness or the Spirit-led possibility inherent in any given instance of practice. Like faithful ministry and discipleship, practical theology pursues the telos of a life-giving way of life in awareness that the means employed in doing so—the practices of faith, including the arts of ministry—are not merely tools. Rather they are both the goal and the path of the Christian life.
anon, and +peace,
In one of those unexplainable lateral leaps through curiosity-inducing links on the web, I found myself at the website of a former teacher, Paul Rabinow (Anthropology, UC Berkeley). He has, together with a few colleagues, formed the Antropology of the Contemporary Research Collabratory (ARC). They describe it this way:
"ARC is a collaboratory in the human sciences. Its aim is to develop techniques of collaboration, modes of communication, and tools of inquiry appropriate to an anthropology of the contemporary."
The image they've chosen on the top of their website shows a traditional science lab with an ocean teeming with life pouring in through the door. Whatever they meant with this picture, one key is the effort to collapse the distance between the experimental research in the lab and the complexity of life just outside. Yet the picture of a typical natural sciences lab belies the intention to be a quite different sort of laboratory that the typical science lab.
An important statement of their idea is the working paper: "What is a laboratory in the Human Sciences?"
Concerns that brought them to found this lab include:
1. Dissatisfaction with the model of the "individual project" that assumes that interpretive and authorial virtuosity is the mainspring of good work.
2. Interest in how the context of a laboratory could encourage active thinking about the nature of collaborative work, originality, authorship, and about the collective tasks such as concept building to what seem to be individual tasks such as ethnographic fieldwork or focused historical research. But this also means that new ways of thinking about how knowledge is generated and how credit is given are needed.
3. The laboratory, they think, can more fully recognize the diffuse character of authorship as it is formed through conversations, borrowed concepts, and exposure to the work of scholars working on related topics. In the laboratory setting, authorship is a "problem" because, as compared to the usual academic conference and its 'collected' work, the laboratory creates 'collective' work.
4. It follows, then, that the laboratory setting focuses on concept formation, on the experiment, on the question, and through such common work in experimentation and knowledge building it is depersonalizing rather than emphasizing the virtues and talents of an individual author.
I place this really exciting development in relation to work I've been involved with over the last five years working to contribute to the restructuring of Practical Theology (one result of our common work is the volume For Life Abundant). One of the key issues arising from our common work is to highlight the telos to academic work in practical theology that drives from research to ministry to discipleship to the life of the world. All our academic work in practical theology is, so to speak, for life abundant. Dorothy Bass, who led this seminar, and has done similar seminars over the last 10 years, has really emphasized collaborative seminar-based work, but the results in the end are still of the 'collected' sort, not really able to recognize the fullness of the 'collective' nature of what we've done, even if we've stretched the 'collected' sort very far towards the 'collective' in this new book.
It seems that the potential for a laboratory in practical theology would offer the same sorts of benefits Rabinow and his colleagues suggest, but it would also, within practical theology, give a common focus to the usually disparate work of those working in various sub-areas: preaching, pastoral care, youth and family ministry, congregational leadership, mission, worship, education, social ethics, and so on. The lab would join our work around at least 1) common conversation about problems to address, e.g. living in a secular age, pop culture and the media explosion, the climate crisis, terror and security, globalization, etc; 2) common conversation about concept formation and methods for gaining insight; 3) more integrated and multi-faceted proposals for faithful engagement of such problems; 4) a more realistic space for training students since the issues in life and ministry are confronted as wholes, not as, say, discrete problems for preaching or leadership.
Well, lots more for conversation here, but I've been leaning this direction for a very long time, and feel like this model at ARC is pushing me off the fence to really seek to make something like this work.
anon and peace,