EDITORIAL:
OF CATTLE STAMPEDES AND STATIO

In the Howard Hawks film Red River, there is an early moment when the cattle stampede. The night is jumpy. Everyone is walking carefully to avoid spooking the herd. In the distance, a coyote barks repeatedly. We know the cattle are going to bolt and so do the cowboys around the campfire. The question is: How will it happen? What will set them off? One of the hands causes the inevitable when he stumbles into the pots and pans on the chuck wagon as he is filching sugar to satisfy his sweet tooth. Although no one wanted the stampede, everyone is relieved once it begins. The tension is broken. The story is on its way.

Putting together a magazine is a bit like that. Editors and authors mill around the chuck wagon waiting for it all to come together. They know it is going to happen. Somehow, it always does. Often, there is a last essay out there that will drop into place or a surprise contribution will change the composition radically. The stampede occurs; inevitably all of the cattle run off in an unexpected direction. But they all go together.

This issue of Cross Currents might feel on first encounter like a stampede in which the cattle are running off in several directions at once. Elise Boulding's essay, however, suggests a theme: locating statio in apparent chaos. The concept of statio (a moment of reflection), which has Benedictine roots, turns up more than once in these articles. Peace, Boulding says, is not a matter of avoiding conflict; it is about recognizing and learning to live with difference, which inevitably includes conflict. She surveys the landscape, in search of peace culture, pointing out those places in which it can be found and might be found in a politically conflicted world.

Liturgy is the natural moment of stillness between stampedes, but it is by no means lacking in ambiguity. It is not an absence of difference; like art, it can be destabilizing, a challenge to who we are and, even, what we believe. Catherine Madsen shows us the unsettling Jewish ritual of Tahara, the preparation of the dead for burial, which incongruously includes verses from the Song of Songs, as an example of the art of liturgy that sustains but does not trivialize religious feeling. Right worship is the ground in which theological reflection grows. It is shocking as well as restorative.

Ignacio Götz points out that Plato viewed inspiration is an irruption of the divine into the ordinary, a kind of necessary possession if one is to ascend to the higher reaches of knowledge. But it is not alone sufficient for the creation of art (or liturgy). In order to make art, one has to interpret one's possession, understand one's own madness. Because the divine embodies the erotic, and vice versa, art is a form of desire that can bind as well as free us.

That is about as neat a segue into the work of Alice Walker as an editor could want. Two essays in this issue take up Walker's womanist theology. Pamela Smith sifts the themes of eros, activism, and pantheism in her writings to reveal an ecospirituality. Linda Thomas takes womanist theology in a new direction, proposing that it become the basis of a new anthropological paradigm in which the experience and knowledge of the marginalized can stand on their own at the center of theological reflection. Her manifesto embodies womanist perceptions and challenges the rest of us to rethink our reliance on traditionally defined texts to understand and interpret the lives of women of color. The construction of knowledge is the issue that Thomas confronts head on -- as indeed Alice Walker herself does in her art.

Peter Young's reflections on the controversial proposals of Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, and Rabbi James Rudin's review of the Vatican's statement on the Shoah, also urge new ways of understanding what we believe, or what we think we believe (or even know). Similarly, Arthur Hertzberg questions assumptions about what it means to be Jewish in the emerging multi-cultural future. The statio of certainty has a brief shelf-life.

Notice how the longer, multi-book reviews in this issue pick up the search for still moments. Whether we are wrenched out of the ordinary by extraordinary events -- such as murder -- or whether we walk away from the ordinary in search of something like the divine, there is inevitably a moment, or even several of them, when whatever is happening is around us. Where we are is silence. We can almost see everything. These are little illuminations, adumbrations of enlightenment, that are necessary protections.

Finally, the Krishna poems that Denise Levertov translated, with Edward C. Dimock, Jr., describe the encounter with death and love that is enlightening. We have selected four of them, along with a woodcut by Anju Chaudhuri, as obituary and homage to one who's life and work were as statio in chaotic times.

The observant will notice that Joe Cunneen has been kicked upstairs. Although he was co-editor of this issue, he is now listed on the masthead as Founding Editor, a position that recognizes his permanent importance for Cross Currents. None of us can thank him adequately.

KENNETH ARNOLD