Robert V. Taylor's life changed at age 22 with a question from a famous man: "Tell me about your life Robert - not what you've done - but who you are."
Desmond Tutu was sitting at his bedside in South Africa asking to know his story. And Taylor has been telling his story and encouraging people with oppressed voices to have the courage to tell theirs ever since. Taylor would go on to fight apartheid in that country, study ministry in the United States and eventually be appointed as as one of the highest ranking, openly gay Episcopal priests in the U.S.
Taylor will discuss his new book about creating a compassionate culture in our lives and world called "A New Way to Be Human" at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 25) at Cameron Art Museum on the corner of 17th and Independence Boulevard. Tickets are $5 for CAM members and students and $10 for nonmembers. Seating is limited. A book signing will follow.
WilmingtonFAVS caught up with Taylor at his home in Seattle for a conversation about his new book.
Q: Seeking happiness and being human are broad subjects. What do you mean when you talk of a 'new way to be human?'
A: "I begin by outlining what I mean by happiness that it's not driving the Range Rover but it comes from paying attention to our own well-being and we begin to experience a more enlivened life, and we're able to care for others and then take steps to polish the world."
Q: So care of self will lead to caring for the world?
A: "Yes. Many Abrahamic traditions have a strong sense of invitation to care for those in society who are in need and pair the care and love of self with what we can do for the world - a oneness with the human family that none of us is a solitary being."
Q: How did Desmond Tutu become your mentor?
A: "He came to visit me in the hospital when I was there recovering from surgery on my spine, and I knew about him. His persistent invitation to be partners in love just captivated me. I knew that it was true. I knew that the holy loved all people, but I was struggling with my identity as a gay man so I didn't believe it about myself. He and I shared an interest in a particular pastor who wrote a book I had read in the hospital, and we became great friends. He got me out of the country, and our friendship remained and has gotten closer over the decades. I'm still struck with how generous he is with his friends, with his love and time. He's very, very loyal. That's a precious commodity."
Q: Is your book a self-help book?
A: "It really goes beyond self-help to a book that offers more of a spiritual path. Coming to the U.S. in 1980 and being an immigrant who was learning to adjust to foreign culture, a book about yourself, in my culture, was considered gaush. But I've learned that it's in our stories and how the many parts of our story comes together that we see the holy within us. I wanted to help people to claim their own voice through the telling of their own story."
Q: Why do you think this country and Europe are seeing a rise in atheism and the 'nones' - the spiritual but not religious?
A: "It's related to the remarkable moment in which technology is driving the greatest changes since the printing press, and people have access to knowledge that's not controlled by institutions or government anymore. There has been a sort of dethroning of previous controllers of wisdom. So people are really thinking for themselves. For many people who call themselves spiritual but not religious, they're just tired of the small-mindedness and the lack of generosity around so-called orthodoxy. I don't think people on a daily basis really care whether the scriptures should be taken literally or not. All of these things seem like such searing questions that abuse people's time and energy. . . It is in our stories that we discover we all want the same things in life. When we allow ourselves to understand we are made not just in the image but the imagination of the holy, we begin to understand ourselves as being part of creation, we see a shift in our understanding of the value of our stories in the community and our place within the human family."
WANT TO GO?
What: "How to be Happy, Cultivate your Imagination and Change the World" -- Lecture and conversation with Robert V. Taylor and WimingtonFAVS editor Amanda Greene
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 25)
Where: Cameron Art Museum on the corner of 17th and Independence Boulevard.
Tickets: $5 for CAM members and students and $10 for nonmembers. Seating is limited.