I have been feasting for two weeks. It started with Thanksgiving, understandably, but since then I have been enjoying time with my family, and quite often that includes food. What I mean by feasting; however, is not solely about a buffet of delectable dishes from various cuisines. My time in LA has been a cornucopia of meetings and greetings with friends and mentors, and even new colleagues. I visited five campuses this week across California for a few reasons. First, when would I not take a chance to go back to USC’s campus? I also wanted to get a pulse for interfaith efforts around the election and the #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock. Visiting these campuses also gave me the chance to road trip up the coast listening to tapes of Grateful Dead shows all the way up (another post on that coming up). A feast for the belly, the eyes, and the ears, yes. This week I also enjoyed a feast for the heart.
On Tuesday I drove to Claremont to have lunch with an esteemed and beloved professor, someone who has mentored me since college. She consistently bridges the scholarly study of religion with spiritual practices with activism, which we desperately need right now. We caught up on projects and our families and the latest American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. After lunch, I got to sit in on a class with one of her closest colleagues, Dr. Frank Rogers, who studies narrative pedagogies, religious education and engaged compassion practices. In class we discussed several paradigms of religious education and even played a riveting game akin to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” a popular game show. The students welcomed me warmly, and we laughed about our struggle to put historical events in order. At the end of class, Dr. Rogers sent us with a sending question: What metaphor would you use to describe education? At first consideration, my mind thought “prism,” but after reflecting on this week, I think “feast,” and perhaps more accurately, “potluck.” Mmmm, potato salad.
On Saturday, two Revolutionary Love Fellows Meha and Simran and I met up for brunch and to finally see each other in person after working closely together for months having never done so (technology is great, but so strange sometimes). As we shared updates on our personal lives and then planned for our upcoming retreat, we commented on the remarkability of the unique gifts each fellow possesses. On our team, we’ve got doctors with facilitation skills. We’ve got lawyers who also do graphic design, and writers who are expert marketers. You could say our group is “stacked.” Meha noted something I’ve been thinking for a while. “I get excited to come home and do RevLove stuff,” she said. “Not only is it so important, but the fact that we all get it, there’s 15 other people who are giving their time for something they feel passionate about is really motivating.” Returning to the question of a metaphor for education, let me explain my choice in “potluck.”
I never would have met Meha and Simran had I not joined this team- Meha has a background in health care and is working toward an MBA, and Simran works at UCLA as a Project Manager. Their background alone brings a different kind of dish to the potluck, and no one likes a potluck with the same dish. Education for me is about bringing great minds with distinct experiences and beliefs, unique ingredients, together to learn from each other at a common table. If too many people with the same identity crowd the gathering, we lose other important perspectives. We need appetizers, main dishes, desserts, and drinks. At the same time, we’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected. The potlucks I remember from the Japanese Community Center where we played basketball often included pizza, spam musubi, and chocolate milk. While this might not represent a conventional meal, educational spaces are enriched by new epistemologies, new ways of learning. On the #RevolutionaryLove Team, I especially see how this happens. My understanding of the legal field and even what motivates teams has increased dramatically. Most of all, a potluck is never successful without a vibrant community committed to maintaining the space, and education is definitely most especially about community. As social creatures, we learn most effectively among others.
My sending question then, is: what will you bring to the potluck? What ingredients and textures will set your dish apart for others to enjoy? Are we hungry yet?