After 25 years of teaching I will admit that having a different routine in the summer is important to me. It’s not that I spend most of the summer doing nothing – a persistent myth that bothers hard-working teachers. While some may put their feet up and recover from an academic year of under-appreciated demanding work, many teachers create curriculum or develop professionally. For me, my time away from BES this summer was full of growth opportunities I hope will contribute to my work as Leader of BES.
The most professionally significant of these opportunities was as a faculty member of Lay Leadership Summer School (LLSS). For one thing, I got to spend a week with BES star lay leader, Kate LaClair! I will let her speak for herself, but I believe she found it a challenging, rewarding experience. I know she will bring new ideas and renewed confidence to her work as a BES Lay Leader.
Personally, serving as a LLSS faculty member was deeply meaningful. It was a valuable reminder of both the Ethical Culture values and the broader humanist movement to which I committed myself years ago. It was as a LLSS student back in 2006 that I gazed out over the rolling hills of Carolina and solidified my commitment to professional EC Leadership.
Being in a different environment contributed to philosophical exploration that I intend to build upon in some platforms. I have LLSS students to thank for one potentially intriguing topic after they requested a group discussion on “humanist spirituality.” Revisiting authors touching on this subject – Alain de Botton, Robert Solomon, and Andre Comte-Sponville – I was reminded of the importance of including opportunities for spirituality in my work as an Ethical Culture Leader.
For those whose toes curl when I mention “the ‘s’ word”, I don’t mean any form of “spirituality” that violates reason. I don’t intend to dabble in mysticism or new age silliness. For me, however, some of the experiences that some humanists crave – awe, humility, and connection to something greater – come to them in forms that they may call spiritual.
I also appreciate that the more strictly rationalistic humanists in our movement – those who see the world more like Center for Free Inquiry’s Tom Flynn – don’t want or need such “spirituality.” Rest assured that I share skepticism for much of what is brought under the “spirituality” tent. I will continue to offer plenty of skepticism and science in my work. I will also, however, bring back from LLSS a fresh helping of awe, humility, and connection to something greater. Look for it at an Ethical Society near you!