by Nathan Rein
* This post originally appeared on Medium.
These fifteen “maxims” are a work in progress. I first started drafting them seven years ago. They were intended mainly for students who were at the early stages of a religion major, but we had so few students who fit that description at the time, I never really put them into classroom use in a regular way.
I’m happy to hear whatever feedback you might have.
- Start with what’s right in front of you.
- Never ignore the obvious.
- Keep track of your own reactions.
- Ask questions, but don’t expect to figure it all out.
- Get comfortable with discomfort.
- Listen to your hunches, but never trust them 100%.
- What do your physical surroundings tell you?
- Use all five senses (as appropriate).
- Beliefs aren’t everything.
- Words matter, but sometimes other things matter more.
- Also, words might not mean what you think they do.
- What’s “special” about this — anything?
- Look for the religion outside religion. Look for context.
- Nothing is perfect. What are you not supposed to notice?
- Comparisons are odious — but draw comparisons anyway.
Nathan Rein teaches religious studies at Ursinus College in southeastern Pennsylvania. Connect with him on Twitter at @ProfessorRein.