Spiritual Writing, especially in the days of deconstructionism, must first be defined if we are going to have a conversation about it. There is something to the challenge of pinning down a fixed definition of any word, particularly a religious one, as much damage has been done in parsing out what is considered spiritual and what is not. If we begin with the basic definition that spirituality has to do with the immaterial, the human spirit, and anything religious, then all writing, when boiled down to its essence—creating and interpreting worlds out of the intangibility of words—is spiritual. (Do you think this might have something to do with why The Best Spiritual Writing isn’t included in the BA series?) Solely for the purposes of this book club—I’m hoping Jenna agrees—another definition for “spiritual writing” must be insisted upon.
I’d like to propose that as we discuss this anthology, when we refer to spiritual writing, we are speaking of writing — essays, stories and poems— that not only reaches out for the ineffable (again, that should be the bar for all good writing), but also fixes its claws into spirituality as the thread through, the thesis, the plot, the content—spirituality as the situation and the story.
As I graph each essay for its greatest —horizontal line for spiritual content and vertical line for successful craft—I am reminded of the essay entitled “Understanding Poetry” by J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D. quoted in the movie The Dead Poets Society. Mr. Keating eloquently claims that J. Evan Pritchard’s system for literary analysis is “excrement.” Poetry isn’t something that can be charted and analyzed, he says; it is something to be lived. Carpe Diem! Ah well, there goes my system. Analyze, critique or judge the selections in this anthology at your own risk, then. Decide on their greatness or not. Live them if possible.
Welcome to the online book club about the Best Spiritual Writing 2012! Let’s start the discussion below (click on “comments”) with the initial questions: What do you believe the definition of spiritual writing is and how you would determine the best of it?