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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 Djuna Barnes. It will be on Monday, February 22nd, 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!


barnes3Djuna Barnes is an American modernist novelist, essayist, and poet whose work characterized new trends in English-language fiction in the first half of the twentieth century. Her novel Nightwood–an intense exploration of love and loss told through a combination of prose and poetry, and one of the most seminal works of lesbian fiction to date–has been praised by many of Barnes’ contemporaries as one of the greatest works of American expatriate fiction of the century. Barnes never adopted religious or spiritual terminology in describing herself, and remarked on how poetry offered secular access to the sort of inspiration religious works provide to others.

For our upcoming discussion, we’ll read a short passage from Nightwood that challenges us to place ourselves and our emotional narratives in our surroundings:

We swoon with the thickness of our own tongue when we say, “I love you,” as in the eye of a child lost a long while will be found the contraction of that distance–a child going small in the claws of a beast, coming furiously up the furlongs of the iris. We are but skin about a wind, with muscles clenched against mortality. We sleep in a long reproachful dust against ourselves. We are full to the gorge with our own names for misery. Life, the pastures in which the night feeds and prunes the cud that nourishes us to despair. Life, the permission to know death. We were created that the earth might be made sensible of her inhuman taste; and love that the body might be so dear that even the earth should roar with it. Yes, we who are full to the gorge with misery should look well around, doubting everything seen, done spoken, precisely because we have a word for it, and not its alchemy.

Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New Directions Books. 1937. 89-90.