Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam

On January's final weekend I'm giving a talk at the University of Richmond's Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art.

The exhibition, Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, has been in the works for several years. I got started on it long before the Fulbright at the invitation of Professor Virginia Raguin of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. In contrast to the many interfaith conjoinings of Islam with Christianity and Judaism, this program expands beyond theology to participation, hence the exploration of a practice: pilgrimage. What sets this collection apart from other, "high art" amassings of religious art work and iconography, is the inclusion of very personal items -- souvenirs, memorabilia, maps, treasures that remind a person of her extraordinary journey. A wristband. A canteen. A few stones gathered en route. Scraps of writings. Connecting these pieces across time are canteens 1000 years old and centuries-old boxes for carrying trinkets home. You'll also see some books and glorious calligraphy as are now on display at the New York Public Library's well-received Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

It's interesting to me how religion, faith, spirituality and seeking are perhaps less pariah subjects than even a decade ago. We are learning to look with respect and curiosity at other people's ways. I am all for the multi-lateralism of society. Appreciation breeds far less destruction than disdain.