RE: "In My Other Life"—preliminary thoughts from sfdetroiter

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Got your request, HeatherAM! I'm going to think about this and let it simmer at least overnight, but I want to get back to you with some preliminary thoughts.

First of all, I do really like this idea. It's a good challenge to think about our lives in a way we may or may not normally do.

As for what could be done with this, I think it should be something messy (but not unintelligible). A collage of some sort, whether in graphic form or video, or whatever. It seems that stories & images should (as they do in real life) overlap, get in each other's way a little bit, blend, complement each other, etc, but not to the extent that they obscure one another completely. Just a little. :)

Maybe the contributors could chime in about how they'd see their contribution fitting in—e.g., do they feel like their life, as represented in their RECord here, is a crescendo? Are they bursting on the scene, so to speak? Are they quietly supportive in the background, like a steady beat? For example, I feel that one of the reasons I wear mostly black is because it, like me, sorta recedes into the background but helps the other colors "pop".

Every human being, and their life, is in a very real way a Mystery (in the more religious sense of the word; the etymology of the Greek is, I'm told, to "close your mouth"). And, in the words of my late mentor, Mystery is something you can't explain or exhaust, but you can render it intelligible—that is, find words and images to talk about it. I think that's kinda what this collaboration is doing, or helping people do for their own personal Mystery.

I also wonder if a central image we might work in—given that we're talking about the selves we've been and the selves we are now as a result—is "Again by Heart." That's such a deceptively rich little phrase, I think.

(Slight tangent coming up, bear with me...)

One of my profs (Bill O'Neill, SJ) was talking about the Gospel of Mark (the earliest of the canonical Gospels), and how it is structured. Basically, there are three things you need to know about that Gospel. First, it emphasizes urgency—the number of times it uses words like "immediately" or "suddenly" as well as its relative brevity almost give a breathless feeling to it. Second, like all Gospels, it's polemic: it wants to convince its readers that Jesus is the Christ. But it does so in an interesting way. It takes us on a ride with Jesus' disciples who don't get it, and then right smack dab in the middle of the book, there's Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" and Peter's "confession": "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." It also starts with the words, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ..." and near the ending, there's the confession of the Roman centurion, "Surely this man was a son of God." The pattern formed by the beginning, middle, and end indicates the theme. Third, the original ending has the women discovering the empty tomb and being told by a stranger dressed in white (angel? the text leaves it mysterious) that they should go tell Jesus' disciples that he's risen and he'll meet them in Galilee, but "they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." One biblical scholar I know points out that that ending is meant to dump the angel's imperative in the readers' lap: OK, these people didn't spread the word; so you ought to. (There are at least 2 later endings to the book where scribes apparently couldn't take the unresolved ending and so wrote up a more happy ending.) Anyway, my prof this past semester said the Gospel of Mark is meant to convince you along the way, and then return you to the beginning again so you can read it with fresh eyes, informed by your own conversion. I wrote in my lecture notes, quite simply, "Again by heart."

How this long detour relates to this collaboration: When we truly see where we've been in light of who we now are, it changes us, and it changes our recollection of the story as well as our understanding and interpretation of it. Who I see myself to be now affects which memories of my childhood I'll hold onto and perhaps tell, and which I'll actually forget. If I make a conscious effort to think about who I am and how I got there, that process will also change how I see myself now. Which in turn... you get the point. :)

OK, so these thoughts probably aren't very helpful quite yet, but hopefully they'll get me, you, and others thinking our way toward something that can really take shape! As I said, I'll think about this more and get back to you. Hopefully in the meantime others will also have some thoughts on it.

Created: Dec 28, 2010

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