Introduction: Care

Dear Radix Reader,

Last November I had the privilege of attending the 2018 Parliament of World Religions as part of a small cohort of Montreal-based students. The Parliament—a.k.a. PoWR, as it is so stalwartly branded in the organisation’s own literature—took place over the course of seven days in a sprawling convention centre close to Toronto’s harbourfront, in what was mostly an exuberant atmosphere of acceptance, joy, and interfaith optimism. I have had some difficulty finding a firm figure on the number of attendees, but the prevailing rumor among my fellow parliamentarians was somewhere in the “Wow! Can you believe there are ten-thousand people here!?” ballpark. Whatever the statistic, PoWR 2018 saw legions descend upon this Canadian shore to share, in a series of workshops, their wisdom and worries and the things they find wonderful. Although I cannot begin to describe the immense array of sessions on the agenda, in one afternoon I went to a workshop on permaculture and the Slow Food Movement and to another on Native Hawaiian spirituality and its capacity to help in male psychological healing. Fellow parliamentarians expanded upon their religious and spiritual knowledge by attending lectures on such topics as the architecture of sacred spaces or the significance and varieties of handfolding in Buddhist iconography. Ceremonies abounded, whether these be a Zoroastrian fire ritual, a Sufi Zikr dance, a Wiccan morning-worship, a non-denominational Christian mass, or any number of other participatory observances. In the course of the conference, I met and engaged in lovely conversation with people from Kentucky, Taiwan, Germany, the Amazon, and Alberta; this list is, of course, non-exhaustive.

What ostensibly guided the course of this whole wacky week was the Parliament’s theme for the year: “The promise of inclusion, the power of love”. I suppose that this theme was incorporated in some way into all the panels, lectures, and summits on the one hand, and the rituals, ceremonies, and performances on the other. This multiplicity of experiences, of course, transgress the analytical divide I just made up (these events were my favourite to attend; the aforementioned permaculture workshop involved a meditation wherein participants directed their focus onto and into a natural object like a dried gourd or a piece of petrified wood). Although there might have been more than ten thousand individuals present, I certainly felt included in the conversation with people who were far more learned than I or who were of religious backgrounds entirely foreign to me. If anything, the Parliament showed me that inclusion is a prerequisite for understanding. Meanwhile, love—that most abstract of immeasurables—was rampant in the prevailing discourse. Love for each other, love for the Earth, love for ourselves. Environmentalists can be theologians and vice versa, and masters of one path or discipline may become students of entirely new ways of knowing.

Why am I going off about this conference here, in the introduction to yet another issue of Radix? A long time ago, like ninety years or so, sociologist Émile Durkheim wrote that the role of the sacred is the production of community; indeed, the sacred thing is community itself. And at the heart of every community: care. I left the Parliament of World Religions with a lot of thoughts and a need to figure out a theme for the next issue of Radix. I figured that “Care” distilled “The promise of love, the power of inclusion” into a single word.
This issue explores care in many of its facets. Jonah Dabora offers an account of the tribulations and preoccupations of one who as taken on care as a vocation. Jeffrey Mackie meditates on the possibilities of caring for a stranger who has passed. Dhruv Chauhan’s exegesis of the Bhagavad Gita tells us that loving those around us may be elevated to an act of the highest divinity, while Kate Ellis reminds us of the necessity of caring for ourselves, lest all the compassion and concern leave us overwhelmed. Enjoy these pieces and all the rest this issue features, and thank you for daring to care with us.\

Radix Project Student Staff

Read the entire issue