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At the Tufts Humanist Chaplaincy, we hope to foster a comfortable environment for people to engage in honest discussions around the challenges in their lives, and to explore how people outside traditional religion approach questions that many faith traditions engage regularly. Our day to day lives, on campus and off, can be challenging just as they are exciting, but we don’t always have a structured hour in the week to sit down and reflect on the way we’ve grown, and the lessons we can learn from the experiences of others.

At small group reflections, the Humanist in Residence facilitates an open, respectful, and confidential conversation around a chosen theme that concerns and informs many of our choices and experiences in our life journey. The conversation is rooted in a text (or other piece of culture) written from a Humanist perspective that engages the theme, and from there will be open to the perspectives and experiences of everyone present in the group. Those present are encouraged to bring pieces of culture that inspire their own values on the theme, including and especially those from other faith traditions.

The upcoming small group reflection will be led through a passage from Joyce Carol Oates. It will be on Monday, February 1st, at 9pm in the Interfaith Center downstairs meeting room. Small group reflections are open to all members of the Tufts community, irrespective of anyone’s belief background. Light refreshments will be served!


joyce_carol_oates_by_marion_ettlinger_hiresJoyce Carol Oates is an American author and poet who has written prolifically since 1963. In addition to winning the National Book Award for them in 1969, she was awarded the Humanist of the Year award by the American Humanist Association in 2007.

The following two passages explore themes of locating ourselves in perspective and finding strength and motivation in the moments we need it most. We’ll use them as a jumping off point to reflect on the beginnings of the year this Monday:

For the first time driving that day I could feel the motion of the Earth. The Earth rushing through the emptiness of space. Spinning on its axis but they say you don’t feel it, you can’t experience it. But to feel it is to be scared and happy at once and to know that nothing matters but that you do what you want to do and what you do you are. And I knew I was moving into the future. There is not PAST anybody can get to, to alter things or ever to know what those things were but there is definitely a future, we are already in it.

Oates, Joyce Carol. Zombie. Vol. 7500. EP Dutton, 1995.

When you discover yourself lying on the ground, limp and unresisting, head in the dirt, and helpless, the earth seems to shift forward as a presence; hard, emphatic, not mere surface but a genuine force—there is no other word for it but presence. To keep in motion is to keep in time and to be stopped, stilled, is to be abruptly out of time, in another time-dimension perhaps, an alien one, where human language has no resonance. Nothing to be said about it expresses it, nothing touches it, it’s an absolute against which nothing human can be measured…Moving through space and time by way of your own volition you inhabit an interior consciousness, a hallucinatory consciousness, it might be said, so long as breath, heartbeat, the body’s autonomy hold; when motion is stopped you are jarred out of it. The interior is invaded by the exterior. The outside wants to come in, and only the self’s fragile membrane prevents it.

quoted in Mabey, Richard. Nature cure. Random House, 2011.