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The Personal Side of Process

April 17, 2012

There are many enduring insights and impressions I could share from the conference I attended last week-end–“Celebrating Reenchantment,” honoring the life and work of David Ray Griffin.  One of the strongest for me (being a fairly relational person) is how personable David is.  I don’t know him well on a personal basis, being actually with him just for the second time at this conference but I know he wouldn’t mind my dropping professional titles and the journalistic last-name style here. 

It isn’t just David among Process thinkers who is like this, by any means.  John Cobb, David’s 1960s professor and dissertation advisor before their long career as colleagues, is also very approachable and a true gentleman (he was prominent at the conference also).  I could name others as well, having attended Claremont School of Theology for a few years in the ’90s.  My main point, however, is that when you find a philosophy (or philosophy/theology) which seems to lead its most serious followers to a loving, joyful and exemplary life, pay attention…. At the least it’s something worth a deeper look. 

And it does get a bit deep pretty quickly if you delve  into the foundations or nuances of Process Thought.  (Not necessary to glean a lot from it.)  But in both David Griffin and John Cobb you find men who are quite capable of “keeping things simple” after plowing though piles of complexity to get there!  They also have a remarkable outward patience and graciousness, seemingly with everyone…. no sense of superiority or being part of an elite level of thinkers.  So one saw this over and over at the conference, making it a delight to be at.  In addition, both men have a delightful sense of humor.  This was expressed repeatedly in John’s introduction and David’s delivery of a biographical sketch of his intellectual journey at the closing banquet. 

Having admitted my limited exposure to David personally, I will let one of his former students who knew and still knows him well “speak” of not only his interpersonal warmth, but his whole life integrity or “Christ-likeness.”  This former student was raised in China and still speaks with some Chinese-style expression.  From the podium he reminded us that in China, “We have the Tao.” As a metaphor for how he has observed David, he quipped, “Tao means the way…. Way is to walk, not to talk!”

I’m wondering if you may have encountered David Griffin or John Cobb personally and have a fun story to share, or may have been impacted by them through a talk, an article or book either of them has written.

If so, please share with us!

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