This week I made some presentations on South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to 8th graders at the nearby Waynesville Middle School. Most of them are heavily involved in the Peacejam Program, which encourages them to find ways to advance peace in the world. This Saturday, through their initiative, groups in the county are assembling over 35,000 meals to send to Haiti! Peacejam was founded by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates like Desmond Tutu, so this was a chance for them to see video excerpts of Tutu’s work with the Truth Commission.
After I had introduced them to pictures from our trips to South Africa, showed them video clips about the Commission’s work with respect to apology and forgiveness, and explaining some of the connections between their history and ours, the instructor asked them when they were born. Around 1996 or 1997. “So this was happening when you were born.” “It is not part of their lived memory,” he said to me. I responded, “Yes, but it is the world they have inherited.”
Memory. Again. How do we remember, personally and collectively? Here was the struggle of the Commission and of Red Clay, Blood River. I didn’t have time to lead them into how my memory, in some slight way, might become part of their memory. Will it live in their memory? Will it shape their action? Will it help them find a role in our common story?
Teaching is passing on memory, whether of scientific discoveries made by earlier generations, or of the history, suffering, hopes, and achievements of long-gone predecessors on this planet. Loss of memory, as with the vicious ravaging of Alzheimer’s disease, robs us not only of our sense of identity and agency but even of our relationships beyond our immediate bodily senses. Our collective loss of memory, as with our forgetting of the lessons of the Great Depression, unlocked the floodgates of financial speculation that have ruined millions of lives today. Forgetfulness can kill.
The 8th graders impressed and encouraged me by their attentiveness to this piece of possible present memory, watching it like an asteroid entering the heavens. Now, their instructor said, we need to chew on this for the rest of the year. As they join our common memory I am aware of how important it is that we remember so that we can forgive and act anew. Thank you, ‘jammers!
PS. They actually packed 60,000 meals!
A Covenantal Imagination: Selected Essays
This collection of my essays from 1971 to 2003 traces the main contours of the development of my thought. At the core of this development has been the rich concept of covenant, with its many expressions in theories of federalism, the dynamics of reconciliation, and ways of knitting together our “oikos” of work, family, faith, and the land.
The essays begin with my struggle to re-imagine images of church and society as “bodies” through the lens of emerging cybernetic theories. They then turn to relations of ecclesiology to social organization and my early engagement with the thought of Hannah Arendt. Ecological themes begin to emerge with an essay on covenantal approaches to land ethics. The covenantal perspective gains further expression in articles about marriage and family in relation to work and the land. Covenantal perspectives on constitutionalism and the dynamics of reconciliation then emerged in the democratic transitions of the early 1990s. The dynamics of reconciliation and their contexts in wider cultural memory take us into the final essays.
For comments on A Covenantal Imagination, CLICK HERE.
Making My Way in Ethics, Worship, and Wood
In this book I lay out the main way of thinking that has emerged out of my personal experience and cultural environment over the course of my life. I call it an “expository memoir” because it focuses on a succinct description of my patterns of thinking as they have developed over time. Through it I have tried to become more self-conscious about the way my origins in Washington and at my family’s farm in Virginia, my education, my experiences in marriage and family, and my teaching and research here and abroad have shaped my concerns and thought.
Woven all through this long development were concepts of covenant and federalism, public and reconciliation, and the ensemble of the “oikos” connections of work, family, faith, and land. Themes of ecology steadily shaped my thought in the last thirty years, while a turn to working with wood and constructing worship furniture spoke to the connection of worship and ethics that has flowed through my work.
I hope this memoir not only offers a kind of summary overview of my thought but stimulates readers to reflect on their lives and they ways they have thought about the world around them. I am pleased that the publishers chose to use Sylvia’s stunning tapestry “Terrifying Joy” for the cover. It offers an opening into the light so brilliant we cannot see what it holds. Our journeys always contain elements of both feelings, even as our sometimes frantic hopes urge us on our way. You can find Making My Way in print and digital formats at Wipf and Stock publishers, Amazon, and through your local independent bookstore.
For comments about Making My Way, CLICK HERE.
Mining Memories on Cyprus 1923-1925
Mining Memories on Cyprus 1923-1925: Photographs, Correspondence, and Reflections is available in a Kindle e-book format. Based on my maternal grandparents' involvement with re-opening the ancient copper mine at Skouriotissa, Cyprus, it contains 116 startlingly clear photos of mine life in those years as well as copious quotes from their correspondence.
This memoir not only introduces readers to the people but also to the geography, machinery, and events shaping the early days of re-opening the world’s oldest copper mine. It also reflects on what it is to recover pieces of our past, rub off some of the tarnish of forgetfulness, and try to reconstruct a history that binds us to people and places far from our usual paths.
The book is also an invitation to others, not only to recover forgotten or repressed parts of their memory, but also as a reconstruction of their identity. I am keenly aware, all through writing the book, of how Cyprus’s division between Turkish-speaking and Greek-speaking populations has made it very difficult for Cypriots to claim their joint history, appreciate the ecological unity of the island, and find a way toward a workable federalism grounded in a new social covenant among diverse peoples.
To purchase a copy, just CLICK HERE.
For readers' comments about the book, CLICK HERE.
For previous blog posts leading to the book, CLICK HERE.
William J. Everett
In my teaching career I authored eight books and numerous articles in social ethics and religion. After over thirty years of academic work — in Germany, India, and South Africa as well as in the United States — I wanted to turn my hand to writing that was more poetic and expressive. I also wanted a more viable balance between my work with words and my work with wood, especially furniture for worship settings. For more about my woodworking, go to www.WisdomsTable.net, where you will also find galleries of artwork by my wife Sylvia, whose ancestors were the original inspiration for Red Clay, Blood River. READ MORE...
SAWDUST AND SOUL: A Conversation on Woodworking and Spirituality
Sawdust and Soul arose from many conversations and joint woodworking projects I have had over the years with John de Gruchy—friend, theologian, and woodworker who lives in South Africa’s Western Cape but who has also spent extensive time in the US. We’ve talked a lot about our wood projects and how this traditional practice of turning trees into useful and artistic pieces shapes as well as expresses our deepest values and approaches to life as well as its transcendent source. These are conversations about woodworking and spirituality. We’ve included a bunch of pictures of our work as well as some line drawings and poetry by John’s wife Isobel. And yes, our children get in some words along with the woodworkers who have been part of our community of inspiration and support. Our topics range from the shaping of a sense of balance in our lives to dealing with loss, memory, and our wonder as creatures in the midst of an amazing abundance of life and artful design. Whether you’re a tree-hugger, an all-thumbs reader, or an honest-to-goodness woodworker, we invite you into the conversation. CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO CLIP!
SAWDUST AND SOUL is now available at your local bookstore as well as
Wipf and Stock Publishers
Barnes and Noble
Amazon (also on Kindle)
and other book sellers.
For an EXCERPT from the book, by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers, CLICK HERE.
TURNINGS: Poems of Transformation
Like works in wood upon a lathe, these poems are word-turnings that reveal the inner grain of our human experience. They are bowls to catch our turnings of memory, conversion, falling in love, and passing through our seasons and the wrenching turns that mark our lives. Above all these turnings are a shout of praise, a murmur of wonder, a turning away from life as usual, a merciful re-turning to the songs, images and stories that move our lives.
You can get TURNINGS at:
For More on TURNINGS:
Red Clay Blood River
Red Clay, Blood River is a story told by Earth about two brothers from Germany and an enslaved South African woman whose lives bind together America’s “Trail of Tears” and South Africa’s simultaneous “Great Trek” of 1838.
OTHER WRITINGS – FREE
I am editing and recasting some of my previous writings into digital format to make them available free to interested persons and study groups. To see a list of these books and articles as well as to save them to your own computer, CLICK HERE.
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