Sunday, May 25, 2008

Creativity through Travel and Transplantation

This is a further article in the series of Creativity in Theological Education.

Travel
When the Earl of Chesterfield was asked about how one might get a good education he replied: “You need to do three things—No. 1 travel. No. 2 travel and No. 3 travel.

So many have consciously or unconsciously followed his prescription and found their preconceptions have been challenged, their thinking has been broadened and their views of the world enlarged.

Transplantation
In his book, The Custom-House, Nathaniel Hawthorne suggests that transplanting people into new soil makes them hardier and causes them to flourish. Their human capital (in the way of goodness, industry and creativity) is multiplied when people “strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.”

Unaccustomed as I Am
Jhumpa Lahire’s new collection of short stories adopts as its title Hawthorne’s phrase, ‘Unaccustomed Earth’. She does not embrace Hawthorne’s suggestion that every transplant automatically succeeds. She writes of Indians of Bengali descent like herself whose clans have been uprooted from India and Bangladesh and have transplanted to the UK or the USA. She notes that while some flourish, others rise and fall.

Theologians in New Soil
One of the spin offs of doing a stint of teaching in another country is that it gives us a rich opportunity to test ourselves in new soil. Teaching new people of a different culture will bring new lessons and insights to our familiar work as teachers. The experience of life by our students, especially if they have suffered greatly for their faith or have been displaced, somehow reveals new dimensions to our biblical and theological understandings.

Sometimes the harsh climatic conditions, the waiting, the confusion because of language barriers will also serve to test us and reveal new things to us about ourselves. While sometimes this might cause us to want to pull up our roots and head for familiar fields it will generally bring the best out of us and lead us to new understandings of the God who delights to lead us into the unfamiliar and work with us on ‘new things’.

Teaching in New Soil:
Do let me know if in the immediate or long term future there might be a possibility of you teaching an intensive (one week, two weeks, a month etc) in places such as these countries that are seeking assistance:
N E India

Vietnam

India (This is a visit of encouragement working with several churches)

Myanmar

* The dates are often flexible with the ability to accommodate the diary of a visiting teacher. The requests usually expect some speaking with churches and different groups.

* Do let me know if you would like more information about any of the above places and opportunities. My postings are intentionally basic and lacking in detail and names.

* Please pass these needs on to others that might be able to assist in this next year.

* If you need information about what TWB is about you can point people to this article on the TWB site, this statement recently posted in the US or this one posted on an Australian web site

* Do let me know if you are seeking a teacher or a conference speaker and I can get the word out.

Dr. Geoff Pound
(Chair, Coordinating Committee of TWB)

Image: The old Custom House where Nathaniel Hawthorne worked in Salem, Massachusetts; Front Cover of the new book by Jhumpa Lahire, Unaccustomed Earth.

Extra:
Check out the great story about how Hawthorne was painfully uprooted from the Custom House and into fulltime writing.

Stories at High Altitude (especially for travellers)