Uyak Bay, Kodiak, Alaska, 2010

For many years now, I’ve been guided by the simple message of the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki who talked about the “Beginner’s Mind,” the mentality of approaching something in a fresh and new way, of letting go (as much as possible) of biases and fixed ideas.

For the beginnerthere are many possibilities, for the expert there are few.

I am a writer currently concentrating on completing (then publishing) my first novel. I write nonfiction essay pieces and blog posts reflecting my engagement with culture and politics.

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My background is evangelical, “born again” Christianity. I grew up in something of a sheltered conservative bubble, eventually earning a Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies with an emphasis on biblical exegesis. I had originally intended to be an academic and a theologian but found myself increasingly discouraged and disillusioned by the stagnation and intransigence of the evangelical movement.

Somewhere in the Midwest, sometime before 2010
Somewhere in the Midwest, sometime before 2010

I am no longer a practicing Christian, but I maintain a daily practice of prayer and meditation. I study the teachings of the Buddha, particularly in the Vipassana tradition. I also still draw invaluable inspiration and wisdom from the teachings of Jesus and the other prophetic voices heard in the Christian Bible, and I am still active among the “emerging church” discussions, with young Christian thinkers and artists trying to salvage the faith and create spaces for spiritual growth that are true to the original vision of Jesus and his early followers.

Once I had made the clean break from evangelical Christianity, I began traveling, and for the last 8 years I have not stayed put for a complete year in the same place, finding myself trying to navigate the streets of Arusha as “mzungu” to appreciating the serenity of Alaskan landscapes.

Kids of Arusha! Tanzania, circa 2014
Kids of Arusha! Tanzania, circa 2014

I have been involved with and support activist causes and the contemporary resurgence of leftist politics, and my blogging and writing on social media are part of my attempt to grapple with the evolving issues during these tenuous times.

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Whatever it is I am writing, I try to maintain that same spirit of Shunryu Suzuki. I try to approach the world and the issues and other people with an open heart and with the mind of an eager young student. Whenever I write, whatever I write, I try to write with a beginner’s pen.

Santa Cruz Mountains, 2016
Santa Cruz Mountains, 2016

 

 

 

I contribute film reviews and essays to Cinema Faith. You can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/erdman31