Wednesday, October 12, 2011


From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
In early June of this year, I had the pleasure of speaking about blogging to a later manifestation of the same class which helped birth this very blog, "Research as Art and Transformation," with Howard Zehr and Paulette Moore. This time around, the class was being held during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (shameless ad: I just finished the website today and registration for SPI 2012 is open!). SPI draws a significantly more diverse crowd from around the world than the already-widely diverse crowd in the masters program during the normal academic year. The students in this class were some serious artists, so it was a blast to talk about artsy stuff in relation to my theological blogging here.

One of the students, Delia, is a doodler. Her way of processing information in a classroom or in other settings is to listen and draw, listen and draw. She showed me her doodles from my session back in June, and I asked her if she would be willing to send me pictures of the doodles at some point. Well, she and I both forgot about it for a few months, but she just contacted me on Facebook and sent me the doodles and a link to her blog post about "blogoodling".

I like the connections here, because I too am a doodler, and have been since childhood. In fact, some of my most original thinking recently about the connections of peacebuilding and theology have come as a result of doodling in my notebook. When we were in Ethiopia in July, I wrote my class lesson plans out by hand the night before each class. In preparation for teaching conflict analysis tools, which are visual models, they weren't capturing some important elements that I wanted to teach along with thm. So I doodled, and before long I had a new model, the Peoplehood Analysis Tool, which I describe in this post/paper.

And after we got back from Ethiopia, in the run-up to my capstone presentation covering my teaching practicum, I had the benefit of having wonderful conversations with a fellow student who is also exploring the possibility of theological peacebuilding. As a direct result of reading some of her work and subsequent conversations, I was at the doodle pad again, updating and expanding my analysis tools for my capstone, which is tomorrow.

Finally, while in Ethiopia, I made the discovery that doodling makes its way into my teaching as well. The whiteboard in my classroom was heavily utilized every day with words and circles and lines drawn all over the place, progressively drawn out as I spoke. It's not enough for me to simply speak, but literally drawing out thoughts is creatively stimulating for my thinking and speaking.

So this very notion of theological doodling seems to name something that I've implicitly done for ages. The doodle is also a good metaphor for many of my posts. Blogs lend themselves well to provisional thoughts that need expression but perhaps more testing. Those "doodles" have been tremendously helpful for me in my intellectual-theological development, and sometimes even as a devotional space as I did earlier today.

Many thanks to Delia for remembering our brief encounter and stimulating this reflection on the virtues of doodling!

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