Spirit and Cosmopolis puts theology on location on the streets of our planet's amassing cities. Since the social environment will be at least as important to well-being as urban infrastructure, Spirit and Cosmopolis offers philosophical reflection worked through spiritual and religious values, then turned toward somatic practice, for living amidst the affective dynamics of the city street. Theology here turns decidedly secular.
Profiled amidst urbanization in medieval Europe, seculars were uncloistered, if religiously motivated persons, carrying their spiritual passion and sense of an obligated life into their daily circumambulations of the city. Seculars lived in the city, on behalf of the city, but - contrary to the new profit economy of that time - with a different locus of value - namely, Spirit. While seculars today admit a certain loss of communication from On High, the possibility of a devoted life, the practice of felicity in history, remains.
Spirit thus names a necessary "prosthesis," a locus which might be cultivated towards spacious and fearless empathy, forbearance, and generosity. While sourced from Christianity, these theological poetics are frequently set in conversation with other religions resident in our postcolonial cities so as to develop social muscles - like freedom from reactivity or corporeal generosity - not always recognized by culture at large. Because "oppression uses aesthetic judgments for its violence" (Siebers) and because the change in economic and ecological forecasts severely challenges the climate of idealism, the critically examined life of the contemporary urbanite is specifically worked through the analytic corpus of disability studies to open out the diverse angles and degrees of precarity ensconced still in the postcolonial city.
The performative choreography of one who has consequently assumed the careful work of an examined life for moving along the corridors of global cities might be named "crip/tography." As a metaphor, crip/tography insinuates "disability" - that master trope for human disqualification inherited from modernism and underwriting colonialism - as a lens for hermeneutically opening out urban aesthetics and analytically assessing human affects. Crip/tography - this nomad spiritual philosophy for everyday life - is not so much a project of "saving" even the vulnerable other as it is learning to live precarious life with the deepest sense of devotion and faithfulness possible. Insomuch as Spirit serves this secular theology as a theopoetic locus for critically examining and differently evaluating the "common sense" and economics that moves our cities, "crip/tography" names a proposed choreography, a calculus based on Spirit's generosity, its spacious and fearless empathy, that redresses fear, advances neighbor love, interrupts circuits of disgust and iconographically crips platonic notions of beauty.
About the Author:
Sharon V. Betcher now an Independent Scholar, was Professor of Theology at the Vancouver School of Theology.