I am a writer, speaker, and progressive minister who loves many things: a good cup of tea, theology, philosophy, Rilke, cats, chocolate, Mary Oliver, Jane Austen, Bach, the Beatles, trees–and, of course, Vincent van Gogh. I am married to Ronald Farmer, a biblical scholar, minister, interfaith leader, and professor who inspires me with his wisdom and generosity of spirit, and helps me stay grounded when I would rather just climb a tree and contemplate the miracle of photosynthesis.
We recently returned from a five-year adventure in the beautiful equatorial country of Ecuador. There, my adoration of ceibo trees, snowy egrets, the Pacific Ocean, and all things green and tropical produced many words I never dreamed of writing. Living in a third world challenged my soul to expand exponentially to accommodate such strange, beautiful, and sometimes risky surroundings. (My new book of essays, Fat Soul, was written entirely in Ecuador.)
As a process theologian, my special focus is on the nature of Beauty, and how we can compose our lives and dreams and communities with the inner melody of Beauty as our “lure for feeling.” Never have we needed the balm of beauty as we do now.
As we face the ugliness of fear and intolerance unfolding in our world, I believe we need to move away from theologies of power and toward theologies of love and beauty. A deeper sense of Beauty (with a capital B) can help us develop not only an enriched spirituality, but can also aid us in envisioning a healthier planet and more just society.
Before earning advanced degrees in philosophy, theology, and education, my first degree–my first love–was music. Music, poetry, and the wonder of nature have especially inspired my experiential impetus toward a theology of beauty.
Beautiful ideas also inspire me, which is why I work in the area of philosophical theology. My favorite philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, thought of God not as an all-powerful king in the sky, but rather as the “poet of the world.” This is the beautiful God I so love writing about!
Along the journey, I discovered that Beauty works to enlarge our souls. As the beloved Celtic poet and philosopher John O’Donohue suggests, “Beauty is not mere loveliness, but a more rounded, substantial becoming . . . an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth.”
Because of this enlarging work of Beauty, I also write a good deal about the size of the soul. Inspired by process theologian Bernard Loomer, who preached about the S-I-Z-E of the soul, I continue his legacy–with his sense of whimsy and countercultural rebellion–by naming my philosophy “Fat Soul.”
My colleague Jay McDaniel (editor of JJB) and I went so far as to co-found Fat Soul International. Our friends of many faiths, and from many countries, have joined us in this soul-widening adventure. Read our Fat Soul Manifesto here.
The following excerpt from my essay What is Fat Soul Philosophy? sums up my own view about God, Beauty, and the importance of enlarging our souls:
“All you really have to remember about Fat Soul Philosophy is that a fat soul is a beautiful soul. In the process world, God is the very Soul of the world, the ultimate instance of The Fat Soul, the One who lures us and all creation toward widening circles of Beauty. God yearns for beautiful relationships of earth and sky and people and turtles. God yearns for us to know that we are all of a piece, all deeply interwoven and wholly beautiful in our differences.”
I hope you will join me on this soul-expanding journey!
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