Tourist Trap Sacred Space

A few months back, I was copied into an email correspondence between a friend and the host of a workshop she had just attended on Religion and Peace Building.  It seemed that the research group that was hosting her event was putting on a similar workshop on Atheism and Literature in Barcelona, and my friend thought that I might be a great addition.  Not only was I truly honoured to receive the invitation, but it served as yet another lasting testament to the truly wonderful character of this individual, ensuring that I, if nothing else, was made aware of this event.  Then again, she has always shown herself to be that sort of genuine person.  Even now, as she makes the transition from academia to the life of a postulant with the Congregation of Jesus (CJs) in London, she has offered to share her experiences so that we might get a special glimpse at the process.

I attended the workshop a week or so ago and had an incredible time.  Everyone involved was engaging and interesting and the experience was truly wonderful.  Here is a brief video of the event, in which I feature a little.

At dinner, and in and out of conversations in English, Spanish, and Catalan, I asked if there were any suggestions about things to do and see in and around Barcelona for the time I had left to explore.  A number of suggestions were made, which I noted.  I ended up seeing a few of these, but not all.  At the top of the list, which I had added myself, was Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.  There were a few giggles, and ‘well of course’ glances.  Someone said something in Spanish, which was translated into English as ‘tourist trap.’  I didn’t think that this was that surprising of a description.  After all, to avoid standing in line (as suggested by the website) I purchased my entrance ticket online.  To do so, however, I had to choose a specific day and time window of when I wanted to visit.  The options were limited, so I chose 12:30-12:45.

The next morning I took the metro from my hotel.  The L2 line to the Sagrada Familia stop.  I joined a small crowd heading up the escalator and watched as almost every person ahead of me turned, as if in sequence, and began taking pictures as they entered the sunlight.  I waited until we got to the top, stepped away from the crowds, and took this picture.sagrada1

Later, and after waiting in a line filled with very anxious tourists (including myself), I eventually had my ticket scanned and was permitted into a second line.  After a bit more waiting, and after I had unpacked the contents of my bag at a security desk, I made my way up the stairs and inside.  There must have been some specific detail about the interior columns on the audio guides everyone was listening to (I opted to wander without a guide), because everyone, and I mean everyone, stopped and tapped, rubbed, or slapped the columns, just at the entrance.  I later learned that Gaudi had designed the columns to mimic tree trunks.  Why this inspired the tapping, rubbing, or slapping, I’m still not quite sure.sagrada4

I took a few pictures, avoided the larger crowds and groups, failed to avoid being in the background of innumerable selfies,sagrada5 and eventually found a chair.  I had about fifteen minutes to enjoy the interior until my scheduled appointment to ascend the tower on the nativity side of the church.  As I sat there, cold and basquing in the surreal green, orange, and red light, I reflected on the oddity that is the tourist trap sacred space.  After all, as we moved along in our line outside I couldn’t help but relate the anxiety I felt about ‘getting in’ to the almost unbearable excitement I used to feel every time we drove into Disneyland.  It was almost as if the church itself had become a novelty, a destination that just had to be checked off a list, but only after stepping through the doors.

This got me thinking.  Was this still a sacred space?  Sure, a crucifix was hanging front and centre over an altar,sagrada2 and the Bose surround sound speakers attached to the tree trunk columns were playing organ music.  Yet, people were on their cell phones.  They were talking loudly, and laughing.  A young boy sitting a few chairs away was playing Angry Birds.  Even I was reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.  When I was in Madrid and stood in front of Picasso’s Guernica, the atmosphere seemed a bit more reverent.  People spoke in hushed tones and politely obliged the no photography rule.  It was as if they were standing before some sacred object.  Or, perhaps it was nothing more than my misinterpretation of museum etiquette.  Then, what about the etiquette of this church?

Here’s my thesis for this post: when a sacred space becomes a tourist attraction, does it transmute into something less sacred, or does it take on a polysemous identity that encompasses both sacred and profane?

As I thought about this, a few caveats came to mind.  First, is Sagrada Familia different in some way?  With its design and connection to the culture of Barcelona and Catalonia, is it more than just a church?  In other words, is it religious, religious art, or just art?  Second, in comparison to the Barcelona Cathedral, does this distinction become more clear?

barce1

sagradafam

In my travels, I’ve often found myself a visitor of the tourist trap sacred space.  It seems, when one spends this much time studying religion, these sorts of pilgrimages occur without much prompting.  So this then got me thinking again: is my association of these cites as ‘attractions’ merely the product of my training?  Because I view these places through the lens of a pragmatic objectivity, have I transmuted them for my own intentions?

I quite fondly remember the feeling of sincere apprehension and discomfort when I was required to not just attend a Sabbath service, but participate as well.  Likewise, I can recall a number of occasions being the odd phenomenologist in the back of the group not willing to ‘take part’ whenever our classes would visit local churches, temples, or synagogues for ‘field analysis.’  Even worse, I remember the infuriating frustration of having to ‘actively engage’ a monastic lifestyle for a course on monasticism.  Though I took it as the University of California, Riverside, it seems the instructor still gives this course elsewhere:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/13/upenn-monk-class_n_1272814.html

http://www.thedp.com/article/2015/02/trained-monk-and-professor-justin-mcdaniel

Needless to say, I happily broke every single rule.  Dr. McDaniel and I made an agreement, though.  Here we are enjoying a beer I made for the class, the only acceptable mendicant role I was comfortable playing.

macd

To return to my thesis, beyond my own perceptions, do these sorts of sacred spaces become something extra-sacred when individuals like me, or individuals who perceive these cites as nothing more than mere attractions, transform them via their own specialised interests?  Additionally, does this in any way infect those who use these cites for religious purposes?

When I walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem I found myself amongst pilgrims leaning their bodies against the walls or kneeling with severe penitence at the Tomb of Christ, while at the same time tourists in khaki shorts and polo shirts followed cartoonish maps and sipped Coca-Cola through straws bought at market stalls with American currency.

via1 via2 via3 via4 via5 via6 via7 via8 via9 via10 via11 via12 via13 viaxixiixiii

I’ve sat in the back of the St. Giles Cathedral here in Edinburgh reading novels by Ian McEwan while secular choir groups practiced singing hymns alongside the organ.  Likewise, I’ve attended festival events at the Cafe Hub just up the Royal Mile.

cafehub2cafehub1

Perhaps out of all of these examples, the most interesting was taking a tour of the Mt. Carmel Centre in Waco, Texas.  Though not much remains after the joint FBI and ATF siege that took place in April 1993, the land itself still maintains a sense of sacredness.

carmel1 carmel2 carmel3

Is the tourist trap sacred space a sacred space?  Yes and no, it seems.  Then again, I’m not sure I’m the proper authority to answer that question.  After all, I am just as guilty in transforming these spaces, and thus just as guilty in treating them as attractions; evinced by the fact that I felt the need to include the pictures I took, or that I took pictures in the first place.  Then again, a keen reader might have noticed that I failed to include pictures of Picasso’s Guernica, perhaps my favourite painting in all the world.  Or of the beautiful Reina Sofia Museum in general.  ‘Of course,’ I might respond.  I didn’t take pictures that day.  It seemed inappropriate to do so.

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Origin Story

Texas is huge.  Of all the stereotypes, that is perhaps the most accurate.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  They’re all pretty accurate, depending on who you talk to, where you talk to them, what you talk about, and the current political climate, both in the US and worldwide.

I was asked recently, as I am often asked, how I ended up in Scotland.  To answer that question I needed to first tell the story about Texas, or at least about my time in Texas.  Without that story, the other one seems less fulfilled, less complete.

We ended up in Texas because my parents retired there, like many other people fleeing California’s waning economy, and we were curious why they would make such a horrible mistake.  We flew to Austin one weekend and found ourselves loving the city.  It was different, and ‘weird,’ and seemed like a fun change of venue from the California we had grown up in.  I ended up at Baylor by writing an email to the then chair of the American Studies program requesting information about their Master’s program.  He returned an email a few days later stating that he liked my interests and that, if I wished, I could begin in September.

The master’s program at Baylor, at least for the American Studies department, is equivalent to a ‘taught masters’ in the UK.  Along with a short dissertation submitted for an oral defence in the Spring of your second year, you also take a number of required courses (up to a specific number of units, in specific areas).  I attended lectures on American history and, most importantly, on Church-State relations.  These latter courses were quite intriguing.  I had not really familiarised myself at this point with the mysteries of Civil Religion, how the Supreme Court’s decisions shaped a particular discursive means of defining American religion, the role the President played in shaping that discourse, and how this all contributed to a larger sense of religion in the American context.

I finished that first degree in one year, and was asked if I might consider joining the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church State studies for a PhD.  I quite excitedly agreed.

One of the main reasons I was asked to join their department was due to my interests in Atheism, a 1/3 aspect to the topic of my dissertation (the other two parts being Fundamentalism and New Religious Movements).  Likewise, because I was a foreigner (not Texan), and because I was, for whatever reason, not shy about diving right into controversial subject matters, I was asked to be the ‘Devil’s Advocate‘ during seminars, the voice of opposition meant to challenge the opinions of the others involved.  I was, of course, not always the only person in the room who disagreed with everyone else, but on the occasions that it did occur, it was quite fun.  Additionally, I found that the other post-graduate students in the department were wonderful debaters, and our conversations and camaraderie is something I will cherish for all time.  Eventually, however, the fun came to an end, and while my eventual demise at Baylor is it’s own story that will likely appear in here one day, it’s not something worth focusing on at this moment.  For summary purposes, I’ll just say that I was not permitted to complete the doctorate.  When I asked whether I might write up another dissertation and receive a second Master’s degree, permission was granted and so I did.


The tacos were terrible.  I was told I wouldn’t be permitted to finish the PhD at a terrible Tex-Mex restaurant in a terrible part of Waco, Texas.  Which is a terrible city.  It was rumoured for some time that the department would be undergoing some changes, and this confirmed much that I had assumed would happen.  It was refreshing in a way, finally knowing the truth.  Equally, it gave me the opportunity to make decisions, to plan accordingly with full knowledge about my future.  In all honesty, I had no idea what to do next.  The terrible tacos add a sensory addition to this memory, a feeling of nausea and uncertainty that would not have made it as meaningful were it not for how bad they were.

I drove back to Austin (we would not have lived in Waco) and started thinking about options.  I contacted a previous supervisor who made the ridiculous suggestion that I look at Universities in the UK.  I had never thought of that.  Moving to Texas was a big move.  Moving to ‘Europe’ was even bigger.  Where would we live?  How would we live?  How could we afford it?  How different would our lives be?  Would we return the same people who left?  Would we return at all?

I applied and accepted an offer to the University of Edinburgh.

My topic would be Atheism.  This was, in all honesty, a bit of a mistake.  Then again, so was religious studies.  I wanted to study Art History.  Religious Studies happened because I took a class I really enjoyed and read Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions.  It was like a novel, about real people, in real places, in real time, being religious.  Then I got involved with some Ninian Smart phenomenologists and the deal was sealed.

The Atheism thing only happened because it was what I was studying at Baylor, and I felt just moving on from there would be easy.  I wasn’t entirely correct.  However, it did lead me into the world of Atheist and, dare I say, ‘non-religious’ studies.  Which then led me to fiction, and a sort of return to my original plan: using aesthetic media (art, fiction, film) as a discursive source of Atheist identity construction.  I’ll get into more detail about ‘Ethnographic Criticism’ in a few weeks.

This also led me to become a part of the discursive world in Britain on the study of Atheism/non-religion.  This included conference presentations, roundtables, and blog writing.  For example, for a while now I’ve been struggling to write a post for the Non Religion and Secularity Research Network’s blog, not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I was unsure about how to write it.  Mostly, because of my criticism about the term, I didn’t want to take the opportunity they were offering me to exact some sort of ill-determined attack on them.  Not only did that seem pointless, but petty.  It all has something to do with the bizarre ownership I think we all feel about our subjects.

Instead, I took the opportunity to write about my own approach, about the way I have used to the term ‘Atheism,’ and how I might use my ‘Ethnographic Criticism.’


I don’t like definitions.  In my experiences studying religion and Atheism I’ve come to dislike definitions.  This is not some sort of post-modernist idea that nothing is defined or, even worse, that everything is fiction.  Rather, my dislike of definitions stems from the inevitable and troubling notion that we need to define the terms and concepts we use in a general or abstract way.  This is what I mean by ‘definitions.’

In my post for the NSRN I tried to explain this a bit more.  In fact, the post itself is a miniaturised version of my Thesis, which is itself a culmination of my research at Baylor and the subsequent interests I have been studying here in Edinburgh.  Within it I can trace the roots back to the origins of my interests all those years ago, and my writing it, as well as their posting it, seems like a sort of sub-Chapter break in my own story about Atheism.

For this, and other reasons, I implore those interested to not only read my post, but the others there as well.  They are, I believe, not only an excellent source of the particular discourse we have created with our individual approaches, but are equally stories linked back to origins just as fictional as my own.

My post: http://blog.nsrn.net/2015/02/13/discourse-analysis-and-the-study-of-atheism-definitions-discourse-and-ethnographic-criticism/  

The blog in general: http://blog.nsrn.net

Especially Our Snipers

During our two years in Texas, the bumper sticker pictured above was one of the many sort of ‘stereotypical’ images we saw stuck on car bumpers or blown-up in large print along the highway.  These were little reminders that Texas was a very different sort of place than the Southern California we had grown up in.  In current retrospect, this is as equally true now that we’ve lived in Scotland for almost half a decade.  Seeing similar images recently also reminded me of a long-forgotten story.

Years ago, when I was still in my undergrad days, I took a course taught by the Chaplain of the University I was attending who despised bumper stickers like this.  They were not, as he would argue, just poorly worded propaganda, they were pragmatically one-sided as well.  Quite appropriately, he referred to the statements made on them as ‘bumper sticker arguments,’ opinions or beliefs tightened up into a few words for the sole purpose of making a proclamation about the person who fastened them.  These were not the sort of affirmations one makes in the company of colleagues or respected rivals.  These were not arguments made with intellectual debate in mind.  Rather, as he would tell us, these were the sorts of arguments that come from individuals who’s minds are already made up.  People who attach these things to their cars were announcing something.  These were the sorts of people who did not want to debate or discuss the content of the sticker, but would rather you know, simplistically, that this is what they believe.

Looking back, I would argue that this is only slightly true, mostly because while I agree that these sorts of statements do in fact represent the opinion of the individual who attaches them to their vehicle, I also believe they harbour a narrative quality as well.  That is, not only are they a summarised position, a guide-post signifying for the reader what the attacher believes about something, they are equally a way to isolate for that latter person a conceptual part of their identity.

In recent months, and in a similar manner, there has been a great deal of discussion and debate about one of the films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.  american sniperSpecifically, it seems the discussion has been about the validity, or even ‘truth,’ behind the story of Chris Kyle’s experiences in Iraq and the United States between 2003 and 2013.  American Sniper tells the story of Kyle’s four tours in Iraq, touching briefly on his life leading up to his first deployment, his relationship with his wife, Taya, the reputation he gains as the most ‘lethal sniper in US history (160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable), as well as the hardships he suffers during his time in combat, and the emotional scars left after returning home.  It concludes, with a somber and subdued tone, with images of his memorial at Cowboy’s Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

Based on an autobiography that Kyle co-authored with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice, the film depicts him as a haunted, kyleyet determined ‘American patriot,’ portrayed quite remarkably by Bradley Cooper, who has equally been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.  Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film takes a number of liberties from Kyle’s story so as to create a narrative not only told in distinct parts, but that clearly determines a dichotomy between protagonist and antagonist.  In the latter, a character called ‘Mustafa’ is entirely conjured in order to depict Kyle’s mirrored counterpart; an equally lethal sniper that haunts (and hunts) Kyle throughout his time in Iraq.

For these reasons, we might even argue that the film is a story of a story, an adaptation of an individual’s own adaptation of events based upon his own recollections.  This is, perhaps, where much of the controversy about this film seems to arise.  That is, since Kyle’s murder in 2013, and because films tend to transmute ‘true stories’ into mythologized tales, the facts tend to become somewhat blurred.  For instance, and what seem to be the focus of much of the debate about him, there are three specific stories that seem to have invoked the most criticism:

  1. Kyle shot and killed two men attempting to steal his truck in 2009 and was excused of all charges (a police report was not even filed) because of an intervention by the Department of Defence.
  2. Kyle shot and killed ‘at least 30’ armed looters from the top of the Super Dome in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
  3. After a verbal altercation in a bar in San Diego, Kyle punched and ‘knocked out’ former Minnesotta Governor, and fellow Navy Seal, Jesse Ventura.

For more detail on these stories, see the article on Kyle on Snopes.com, and the well-written piece for the New Yorker, “In the Crosshairs,” by Nicholas Schmidle.  Or, at this point, and thanks to the film’s popularity, simply google Kyle’s name.  Something will come up.

While this controversy is indeed something worth discussing, and while Kyle’s life is indeed an interesting story, it is not the focus of this post.  Rather, my intentions herein are about the narrative of Kyle’s story, and how we so easily seem to shift these sorts of stories into concepts, overlooking, or even pragmatically ignoring, facts for the sake of legend.

Kyle’s story, or at least the one re-imagined in Eastwood’s film, works as a narrative concept for individuals on both sides of the discussion.  On one end, he depicts a national hero, a patriot who willingly gave his life for his country, protected his fellow troops, defeated the enemy at all costs, and who died trying to assist his fellow soldiers suffering from the physical and emotional scars left by the tragedy of war.  On the other, he is an example of violence begetting violence, a man obsessed with proving his masculinity, who equally depicts the religious zealotry exemplified by the war in Iraq.  But again, I would argue that separating his character into these two depictions once again overlooks the fact that his story is merely a narrative interpretation, one narrative interpretation, of a single point in history.  Whether it is true or false, it is a narrative, a story built with and from discourse.  Even when mythologized, even when we find ourselves leaning in either direction between promotion and criticism, his story is just a story.  His narrative is just a narrative.  It is, in each of these interpretations, a conceptual representation, both bumper-stickered and debatable.

Perhaps a better way of making this argument comes from another of Clint Eastwood’s films about war.  The leading narrative in Flags of Our Fathers tells the story about how the iconic image of six US soldiers raising a flag on Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima was in fact a construction, or if nothing else, a mythologized image used for the advantage of boosting stateside morale.  A fiction in the sense that it depicts a second raising, the film chronicles how the image was used by the US Government and promoted by three of the surviving soldiers captured within.  No more than three minutes into the film Col. Dave Severance (played by Harve Presnell) makes the following statement:

What we see and do in war, the cruelty, is unbelievable.  But somehow we gotta make some sense of it.  To do that, we need an easy-to-understand truth.  And damn few words.  And if you can get a picture … now, the right picture can win or lose a war.  

iwo jima

Whether or not there is any sort of truth to the myth, whether the facts depict a truth that we might quantify in any sort of ‘real’ sense, we need narratives.  Even if they present material that for some of us is outrageously fictional, narratives are just as essential to the individuals who use them to define themselves, as they are for us in our own means of self-definition via the ways we interpret them.

In this way, when we see ‘bumper sticker arguments,’ perhaps the better response is not an immediate reaction, such as the Chaplain above seemed to have promoted.  Rather, when we see these sorts of images, perhaps we might be better off simply understanding that they represent a narrative, a means with which certain individuals define themselves, either for or against the statements made.  Whether we want to simply believe them as true, research the facts within, or work to disprove them, they will always be stories.  After all, Chris Kyle now lives solely in legend, but only because he now exists solely as a character within a story; a fate that awaits us all in time.  For pragmatic reasons, then, the stories others tell, the stories we tell about them, and the stories we tell of ourselves, work as identifiers, assisting us in making sense of life in our determined search for meaningful fictions.

A Feeling of Ownership

Though perhaps not as many as others I know, I have presented at a good number of conferences.  One thing that I have learned throughout the process is the utility in using these experiences to better shape my research narrative.

Like a story in itself, the thing that we research often becomes something told and retold on so many occasions that it transforms into a part of our personal discourse.  That is, our research topic transmutes into something that describes us, and vice versa.  It becomes a part of our identity.  This is, partly, why my twitter handle is twitter.com/AtheismGuy.  Moreover, at the early stage, when we are focused so myopically on the PhD Thesis, this is ever more prevalent as we begin to try and describe (and in the process come to realise) what it is that we are actually researching in the first place.  This is perhaps best reflected by a friendly exchange that recently took place between myself and two other individuals who are studying Atheism/Non-Religion.

The three of us met at a cafe in Edinburgh to discuss the possibility of shaping together a roundtable discussion for our Atheism in Debate course here at New College, which we each tutor on.  I wrote briefly about the course in a  previous post.  The locus of the idea came from Liam Fraser, who’s research on Atheism and Fundamentalism argues “that these apparently irreconcilable movements share a common intellectual structure, and derive from a common theological and philosophical source.”  Very interesting stuff.  The other in our group was Christopher Cotter, who I’ve mentioned previously, and who’s research at Lancaster University on the discourses that underly the social constructions of notions about Non-Religion and the ‘secular’ is definitely worth a read.

While Chris and I have known each other for a few years now, this was our first introduction to Liam, so our conversation, as so often happens when three individuals who study similar things meet for the first time, was focused as well on what Liam so aptly called our ‘elevator pitch.’  I’ve heard this phrased a number of different ways, perhaps the most popular of which is the ‘three-minute thesis,’ which is also the name of a world-wide competition that began in Australia.  In essence, the ‘three-minute thesis’ is as the title suggests, or as the website states: the reduction of an 80,000 word thesis into a three minute presentation.  It isn’t really that easy, despite the ease with which some are able to do it.  See, for example, this last year’s winner Megan Rossi:

   

Regrettably, I have never really tried to reduce my thesis in this manner.  So when Liam asked for my ‘elevator pitch’ he, perhaps begrudgingly, received a fairly long and detailed account of how I intend to change the academic world with my substantial and original ideas.  As I was detailing all of this to him (and Chris, who got to hear it all over again) I began to consider how this pitch not only describes what it is that I’ve done these last four years, but me as well.

This thought returned recently as I sat down to write up another conference presentation, which I will expand on a bit more later this month.  In the process, I came to realise that there exists an odd feeling of ownership to these subjects, a bizarre association with ‘Atheism’ and my name, or the way I feel as if I have some sort of hold on the notion of Atheism and fiction and Ian McEwan’s novels, the latter of which always seems to surface when I meet someone who’s read one of his books and we carry on in a special conversation only we understand.  It’s like having an exclusionary knowledge about a subject, being ‘in the know,’ or privileged in some odd way.

Whenever I find myself thinking this way I am reminded of a line Malinowski noted in his diary during his observations in New Guinea for Argonauts of the Western Pacific.

Joy: I hear the “Kiriwina” [another name for the Trobriands; more strictly the northern province of Boyowa].  I get ready; little gray, pinkish huts.  Photos.  Feeling of ownership: It is I who will describe them or create them.[1]

Though he never, as far as we might assume, intended to publish these personal thoughts, and though their publication made way for the Writing Culture debate that would follow in the next two to three decades, I would argue that Malinowski’s own feeling of ownership is not all that surprising.  In fact, because he saw himself as the translator of Trobriand culture for the Western World, his sense that he ‘owned’ it is as equally reflective of his idea that this would be his subject.  He would introduce it to the world.  He would translate their ‘imponderabilia,’ the nuanced and specific day-to-day that only one who has lived amongst his subject might be able to understand.  He would create them.

Beyond the conversation we might have about how an observer’s textual representation (or even interpretation) might in any way equal anything akin to ‘creating a culture’ (which will come up eventually, I assure you), this might better explain what i mean by a ‘feeling of ownership.’  When we undertake these sorts of research projects, we not only immerse ourselves fully into the subject, the subject begins to infect us as well.  There becomes a blurring of sorts, a consolidation of subject and object.  This might explain why, on occasion, and especially depending on the subject of one’s research, we often get confused with what we do.  This appears infrequently in religious studies.  On a number of occasions I have been asked by friends and family if my intention is to become a ‘minister,’ or if I ‘actually believe’ what it is I study.  Likewise, this might explain the jealousy we feel when we discover someone who studies what we study, but with (horrifically) a different perspective.

While this sort of thinking resurfaces from time to time, it is not something that I would argue is entirely an inaccurate assumption.  We are our subjects, because our subjects shape our research narrative.  They play an integral role in not only shaping the story we intend to tell, but the story of that story as well.  In this way, when we reduce our research into an ‘elevator pitch’ in order to easily describe it, we are likewise finding a way to describe ourselves.  Of course, and again, I do not have an elevator pitch.  Rather, I have a blog.  This is my elevator pitch.  However, the elevator is very slow, and this building has a whole lot of stories.

So, as I once again cobble together a presentation on Atheism, Atheist Narrative, Fiction as Ethnography, Atheism in McEwan’s Fiction, and Discourse Analysis and the Definition of Atheism, I am once again reminded that, for no other reason than the obsession it takes to fully baptise oneself in a subject, when I give this presentation I will be the one who owns it.  I will be the one to describe and create it.  Of course, that does not mean that it is entirely mine.  This is just a story I tell myself, a feeling of ownership I pretend exists, to keep me from feeling like what I have to say means something beyond the boundaries of my own thoughts.

[1] Bronislaw Malinowski, A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, Norbert Guterman, trans. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967), 140.