Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Prophets" for a New Season

I teach a college-level composition course called "Women and Writing," its theme concentrated on "Women and 'Worship.'" While we certainly examine texts written by women raised in or practicing varying faiths, we mostly transform the definition of "worship" itself.

By this, I mean we look more closely at what American culture truly reveres, what it might expect a "gender" to love or reflect, and what we "worship" in our daily living. My students can relate to how a culture "transforms" a term (just ask them about their "friends" on Facebook).

However, when we transform a definition tied to something normally sacred, it's a difficult process. My students, not yet seniors in college for the most part, rarely take the time to ponder what they voluntarily spend the most time, energy, and money pursuing. It's scary. It's invigorating. It causes them to slow down, take stock, create a "close reading" of their lives and national identity, so to speak (or, that's at least what I hope happens on some level).

Next week, my students will present on female "prophets," meaning someone influential, a great teacher, a "trail-blazer." This "prophetess" is not necessarily popular and can be controversial in her message or lifestyle. From Lady Gaga to Sarah Palin, these student presentations always teach me more than words can say. I look at my students, their choices of what "prophets" shape their identity and culture, and wonder about the world they will create, uphold, demand...not that I'm too far from the Millenial Generation myself. But to stake a claim in the "me" generation can feel like a confession, right?

In my last post, I spoke of my hubby's job being cut to part-time. Little did we know that it would turn into a full lay-off. My job, too, is now at stake. I haven't blogged for awhile because what I have been "worshipping" has taken most of my mental energy. I began to question everything, from staying in grad school to the hierarchy of academia (though I am a lowly adjunct, I hope to keep teaching at the college level) to being an American to possibly moving across the country...My "prophet" became this invisible shadow-self, a constant hover-cloak of doubt and anxiety. And she was powerful.

As the dust settled and I began to look at our situation as a possible window we might never have opened otherwise, I've been seeking out other "prophets":
* singer-songwriters like Patty Griffin
* the strong women writers I teach
* Rumi
* generations of women in my family who have abundently lived and dreamt in the midst of "living with less"
* the Holy Spirit (and yes, I've always supposed the Spirit is female)
*even different versions of the self, parts of me that have grown--and most importantly learned--from change

It's May. A green May--water running in the streets. Thunderstorm after thunderstorm...and what grows after, what comes after, what is still there.

Who are your "prophets"? What would they ask (of ) you today?

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