Mar 27 2009

Candler, Emory, and the World

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Emory University Presidential Distinguished Professor



One of the things I love about Candler is that, as a student and now as a staff member, I have been connected deeply to the school here–faculty, staff, students–but also to Emory and to the larger world. What a week for all three of these aspects of Candler life on campus?!



Candler

At Candler this week, we had the privilege of hosting John August Swanson, the American artist whose works adorn the walls of our new Theology Building. Last week’s blog covers the art and techniques of Swanson. In a meeting of sizable powers, Swanson shakes hands with Dooley, Emory’s unofficial mascot (pictured right).


Meeting and hearing John August Swanson the man was a pure delight. Though he claims he is not a speaker or lecturer, his presentations throughout the week were insightful, funny, and thoroughly engaging. He gave a talk on his creative process. I was particularly fascinated by the patience and trust in the work that was coming through him about which he spoke. For instance, he had rough sketches from the 1970s that he held onto until the late 1990s or early 2000s, when he was ready to finalize his vision and complete a serigraph or painting. He never throws anything away, and when things are ready to come out, he is in tune enough to listen to the spirit within and create when the time is right.


Stay tuned for some video from the worship service he led with Rev. Dr. Don Saliers—I missed it, but heard from several colleagues that it was the best worship service they’d ever been to at Candler!



Emory

While Candler had Swanson week, the rest of Emory was in the midst of Dooley’s Week. While mostly for the undergrads at Emory College, Dooley’s Week is a week of food, music, and celebration across campus. Dooley is pictured to the left, with his entourage. Wikipedia has a great description of Dooley and Dooley’s Week:


Traditions at Emory include Dooley, the “Spirit of Emory” and the unofficial mascot of the university. Dooley is a skeleton and is usually dressed in black. The name “Dooley” was given to the unofficial mascot in 1909. Each year in the spring, during Dooley’s Week, Dooley roams Emory’s campus flanked by bodyguards (“Dooley guards”) and lets students out of class with unscheduled appearances in classrooms. He typically walks slowly with an exaggerated limp. A spokesperson amongst the bodyguards walks with him to deliver his messages as he never speaks himself. His identity is unknown and this is often fodder for campus gossip. He adopts the first name and middle initial of the University’s current president. As such, Dooley’s current full name is James W. Dooley, after James W. Wagner. Dooley’s Week culminates with Dooley’s Ball, a grand celebration that takes place in the center of campus on McDonough Field held in celebration of Dooley and Emory University. A sporting match called the Dooley Cup is played between the university administration and the student government association (SGA) each spring as well, and the SGA remains undefeated.

Dooley’s week always ends with a concert. This year N.E.R.D played to a packed crowd on Friday night (pictured below).

photo by Kevin Kelly/Emory Wheel Staff Photographer



The World

Lastly, this week was Tibet Week at Emory. Every year, Emory celebrates its relationship with Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Tibetan culture, religion, and arts. The Emory-Tibet relationship began in 1991 when 1991 Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi was sent to Atlanta by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Negi received his PhD at Emory and founded the Drepung Loseling Institute, the North American seat of Drepung Loseling Monastry in Dharamsala, India. Emory’s Religion Department offers a full range of classes in Buddhism Pali and Sanskrit language, as well as a study abroad program (alas, only for undergrads), in Dharmasala, India, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.



This week, Tibetan prayer flags criss-crossed the Quad in a rainbow of colors. The Tibetan tradition is that the prayers that are written on the flags are carried by the wind all across the countryside and the world, spreading joy and peace.

In a wonderful coincidence, the featured Tibetan art form this week was the Thangkas, which are Tibetan religious paintings. Like Swanson’s art work, thangkas are highly detailed paintings of religious saints (or boddhisattvas, in the case of the Buddhists), figures, and stories. I actually ran into one of the Buddhist thangka painters in the hallway of the theology looking at what he called Swanson’s “Christian thangkas.” We talked for about ten minutes about theology expressed through art and through prose, and how each medium has its place. What a blessing!


Jun 27 2008

Summertime in the City

Summer is in full swing here in Atlanta. With so much to do, here are some favorite things around town, from Candler staff.

Cassondra Haffner, Admissions Assistant

Cassie grew up hometownless (Navy brat), has a background in Art History and Architecture, and has been at Candler for three years.

Cassie’s Five Favorite Things About Atlanta
1. Fourth Friday ArtStroll at Castleberry Hill

Cassie is kinda artsy and loves Castleberry Hill (CH), Atlanta’s up-and-coming-and-maybe- already-there art district. CH hosts a monthly ArtStroll, where galleries and lofts are open to the public, local lounges cater to Stroll-ers, and Atlanta in general gets its culture on. Candler grad Ben Brazil wrote a great article on CH for the New York Times.

2. Walking Sam, her dog, at Piedmont Park
What began in 1887 as the Gentlemen’s Driving Club, was transformed in the early 20th century by the Olmstead brothers into Piedmont Park. The park is a 185-acre urban oasis in Midtown Atlanta. In addition to having the city’s largest dog park, Piedmont is a great place to walk your dog around miles of walking/biking/jogging/rollerblading paths. Go early on a summer Saturday for the open-air Green Market to buy fresh produce directly from local farmers.

3. Grits at South City Kitchen
Located in Midtown, South City Kitchen has been dishing out “contemporary Southern cuisine with a sophisticated twist” since 1993. Cassie loves the shrimp and grits, collard greens, and buttermilk fried chicken, all with a glass of Sweet Tea-the table wine of the South. If you’re from the North (a.k.a., “a Yankee”), try the grits. Don’t roll your eyes. Cheese grits, creamy grits, shrimp and grits…mmmm.

4. Ballet
Cassie has been involved in ballet all of her life, and has trained with the Atlanta Ballet for the past three years. This spring, Cassie saw big, a ballet-hip-hop fusion performance featuring live music by Antwan “Big Boi” Patton of Outkast performing onstage with the Ballet. You don’t see that every day. The 2008-2009 season features traditional pieces like Swan Lake and the Nutcracker, as well as performances like Don Quixote and Dracula. Cassie is considering auditioning for the Company this fall! Woohoo!

5. Braves games at Turner Field
What would summer be in Atlanta without the Braves! Take MARTA to Five-Points Station and catch the free Braves Shuttle. Turner Field allows you to bring in food and drinks (no glass), so pack a picnic or pick up a pizza on the way. Tickets can be ridiculously cheap, with lots of specials—they sell a couple hundred $1 tickets before every game.

Brad Schweers, Admissions Advisor

Brad grew up around Chicago and has been in Atlanta for ten years. Yikes! He graduated from Candler with a Master of Theological Studies in 2005.

Brad’s Five Favorite things About Atlanta
1. Ultimate (frisbee)
Atlanta’s weather allows for Ultimate leagues 11 months out of the year. Brad has played on several Summer and Spring league teams with the Atlanta Flying Disc Club. There are also pick-up
games all over town on just about every day of the week. Candler students play pick-up on the quad every Friday at 2:00 p.m. Last fall we played with four Buddhist monks during H.H. the Dalai Lama’s visit. No joke.

2. Wednesday Night Jazz at Après Diem
Brad has been a regular at Après Diem’s Wednesday night Jazz jam sessions for years. The free music usually goes on around 8 p.m. and can be heard from the bar, the patio, or the lounge (go early to get a couch). Dave Frackenpohl, a Georgia State University Jazz instructor, leads the house band and there are always musicians and vocalists who pop in for a song or two. Try the Tomato Montrachet, Salmon Ciabatta, or Salmon Farfalle.

3. Taizé Prayer
Prayer services based on the music and liturgy of the Taizé Community in France have spread all across the United States and the world. Taizé services are at once ancient and yet contemporary and popular. At any given service, the melodic and meditative songs might be sung in any of a half-dozen languages, along with times of corporate and silent prayer and reading of the Christian Scriptures. Atlanta has a vibrant network of churches who host services weekly or seasonally, including a Monday eve
ni
ng service somewhere in Atlanta every week.

4. Ponce
Paris may have the Champs Élysées, New York may have 5th Avenue, Chicago may have the Magnificent Mile, but only Atlanta has Ponce. The proper (and never used) name is Ponce de Leon Avenue, but it is pronounced monosyllabically “Ponce”. Where else can you find a private prep-school, a boys choir, a Hare Krishna temple, and Willie-the-Bike-Shorts-Guy perpetually waiting for the bus, all within 4 blocks? Ponce is home to a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, the 24-hour Majestic Diner, a female roller-derby team (that plays in an active Shriners’ Temple!), and the Open Door Community, a Catholic Worker-inspired social justice community.

5. Religion
You’d be hard-pressed to find a city in the U.S with a more dynamic religious presence than Atlanta’s. It was no accident that the Civil Rights Movement emerged from the Black Church and the fertile religious culture of Atlanta. Atlanta is the international home to the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, Habitat for Humanity, and the Depung Loseling Monastery, American seat of H.H. the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpa monastic order. On the ground, religion vibrates in every village and every hamlet, with scores of churches, synagogues, mosques, chapels, temples, meeting houses, monasteries, ashrams, and house-churches.


Oct 26 2007

The Dalai Lama on Peacebuilding

What do President Jimmy Carter, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have in common? Knowing the source of this blog, you can probably guess that these three distinguished individuals were recently on campus at Emory University, but how often can you experience three dialogue partners of this caliber in one week? While every week at Emory does not draw world renowned speakers, theologians, and politicians, this is an exciting time to be at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. In fact, both President Carter and the Dalai Lama spoke in Cannon Chapel this week, focusing on what it means to be a religious person in this day and age.

The week of great speakers began when President Jimmy Carter gave a talk about being a Christian in the 21st Century to an engaged and intimate audience of Candler students, members of the religious life community in the college, faculty, staff, and guests in Cannon Chapel on Thursday afternoon. Less than 24-hours later, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited Emory Law School on Friday morning, for a conference on “A Fair and Impartial Judiciary,” where she gave the keynote address. The national and local news began to take notice of Emory when the Dalai Lama arrived on campus for a visit, just days after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington D.C. What great resources we have at our fingertips by being situated within Emory University. Candler is one of very few seminaries connected to a major research university, and Candler students are invited to take full advantage of every opportunity at Emory, from concerts to community service and from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was the Cannon Visiting Distinguished Professor of Theology at Candler from 1998-2000 to Salman Rushdie, whose archives are in the University’s Woodruff Library and began a five-year appointment as Distinguished Writer in Residence this year.

Emory’s invitation to the Dalai Lama to join the faculty is the only academic appointment the Dalai Lama has ever accepted. His visit was marked by a conference on “Mindfulness, Compassion, and the Treatment of Depression,” several performances including Tibetan music and dance, the creation of a Mandala sand painting, a lecture and summit, and concluded with his installation as a Presidential Distinguished Professor and a public talk on Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. After standing in line with my Emory ID and entering a lottery (please forgive me, The United Methodist Church), I received a ticket for one of the many events featuring His Holiness. I had the privilege of attending Emory’s first Summit on Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, on Sunday, October 21, 2007, which was right up my ally, as I have an interest in conflict transformation and interfaith dialogue.

Simply hearing the Dalai Lama speak on this topic would have satisfied me, but he was joined by four other panelists from the Hindu, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions, which added such rich dialogue to his sage comments. His Holiness the Dalai Lama began with a statement, which was followed by responses from Rabbi David Rosen, Sister Joan Chittister, Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im. Gandhi offered a high compliment to His Holiness at the beginning by saying, “People of all kinds are at home with this homeless man,” for the Dalai Lama has been in exile in India and away from his home of Tibet since 1959.

I really appreciated that various times during the dialogue, panelists and the moderator, Dr. Lauri Patton, reminded participants that we can create peacebuilding moments in our local context. In fact, Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im suggested that we stop to using “we” language and start using “I” language. Having been raised in The United Methodist Church, in the west, and being from a large family, I often feel most comfortable using “we” language, as a way to be more inclusive. However, he made a compelling point that individuals should not wait for others to join them, rather “individuals have the ability within themselves to create change.” He suggested we focus on our own human agency rather than relying on others to enlist in the movement for change, dialogue, or peacebuilding. In that same spirit, Sister Joan Chittister ended her time by stating, “If the people will lead, eventually the leaders will follow.”

Some of the questions that emerged out of the summit, and that I offer here for further reflection and dialogue is:
What are the best local peacemaking practices in places affected by religious violence?
How are people addressing these issues of religious violence “on the ground” in cities, communities, and neighborhoods?
For that matter, what is the role of religion in creating suffering in the world?

The Dalai Lama’s message was a message of love and affection. He said, “We really need a closer understanding of each other. It’s essential.” The Gospel message, which is my faith tradition, is to Love, and I believe is also the basic function of all religions and faith traditions. Sister Joan Chittister responded to the Dalai Lama by asking, directly to western Christians, “What do we have to contribute to the history of love?” What will we, as seminarians and discerners, future denominational leaders, community organizers, Christian educators, and global citizens, have to contribute to the history of love?

Sister Chittister told a story of a young man asking an older, religious sage, “Is there life after death?” and the sage asked back to the young, “Is there life before death?” Change can start in the here and now, for we all hold the possibilities for change and reconciliation. One of the final words from the Dalai Lama was in response to a question about Human Rights, in which he said, “If certain traditions don’t go well with current conditions, we have to change those traditions.” What hope for the future he offers!

Each panelist at the summit painted a beautiful image of change, transformation and dialogue, which Rabbi Rosen reminded us, is a powerful thing and can often be more affective than action. If you would like to be a part of a seminary within a university that offers outlets for dialogue about religion, conflict, and peacebuilding, Candler is the place for you. Pease contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, find us online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

By Lane Cotton Winn 07T
Candler School of Theology
Emory University
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Intern