September 13, 2008

Paper #1 Assignment - Spiritual Autobiography

Paper #1 - Spiritual Autobiography – Due October 29

Reflection on our lives in the context of the themes of the course may reveal patterns and directions that we weren’t fully aware of. This paper project encourages you to frame your experience in a new way (to some of you). You may find yourself coming to a greater appreciation for and trust in the direction of your life, or you may find that you are able to articulate challenges and periods of difficulty in new ways.

Before you start writing, go to the course Web site and read over the “Spiritual Memoir Preparation Reflection Questions? that come from a process called “Quaker Dialogue,? which was designed to prompt deep sharing among a small group of committed members of a Quaker community over a 6-meeting span. I’d like you to spend some time prior to beginning the paper project reflecting on these questions one at a time, choosing those that resonate to your experience, and just spending some time thinking or journaling (privately, not to be handed in) about them. The questions are intended to initially sharpen your memory of early experiences, and move you forward into your more mature years. You’ll notice that both formal and informal religious experiences are included in the reflections.

After spending at least a couple of weeks thinking (or journaling) about these questions, you are ready to start writing this paper. Please be as frank as you are comfortable being, but I also want to respect your privacy, so don’t share experiences if you feel uncomfortable doing so.

In this paper, reflect on childhood, youth (teenage and early adulthood), and mature periods of time in your life, and discuss how at least some of the course “themes? have figured in your own spiritual experience, either formal (part of an organized religion) and informal (spontaneous or individualized beliefs and experiences). By the time this paper is due, you will have done quite a bit of the course reading as well, and can make connections to ideas that have sparked reflection or memory for you. Here are the themes again:

* naming and discerning the divine
* ritual and practice
* transcendence and immanence
* ethical and social concerns
* nature and the sacred
* gender in religious language, experience
* false self and authentic self
* metaphor, symbol, and myth
* individual and community
* race/ethnicity and class shaping religion
* spiritual path or progress on the journey

I’d like to see a minimum of five double-spaced, typewritten pages or the (neatly written) handwritten equivalent. Longer is fine. Please don’t skip extra lines between paragraphs; double-space; font size of 11 or 12; use 1-inch margins.

Grading will be based not on the profundity of your experience, but on the degree of clarity you bring to your discussion, especially in your ability to articulate your experience in light of at least some of the themes above. Focus on those themes that connect to what really matters to you, rather than just going down the list. Refer to course reading or outside reading if you feel a personal connection to it, especially where something you have read has changed your experience or thinking in a significant way. I’m not going to suggest an organizational structure, because I think that different individuals will have very different stories to tell.

Be sure to proofread, and if you refer to specific material in the course readings, indicate the author and page number (no need for elaborate or formal footnotes for this paper).