A Peopled Memoir

The other week I finished Stanley Hauerwas’s memoir, Hannah’s Child.  Hauerwas spoke a bit in the beginning of his book about the reasons he wrote a memoir.  He mentioned the obvious in that theologians are not known for completing such works.  He said by their nature and by the nature of their work theologians don’t spend many energies in the apparent effort of telling their own stories as much as they tell another story, the story of God and God’s things.  Of course, that’s a very rough summary of his introductory remarks, in my own words.

Coming away from his book, thinking it through slowly while I read it, I am convinced and glad at how peopled his remembrances are.  He even said that he nearly subtitled his memoir so as to make it a clear tribute to his friends.  Over and again he commented on how necessary and significant others were for the work he had done and the work he was doing.  Friends–and he named them and told their stories as well–were the ones who framed how this thinker about God told of his life.

I’m not writing a memoir and I won’t most likely, but I think Hauerwas, theologian that he is, has left us with more than his own story in Hannah’s Child.  I think he’s given us a method of doing theology.  I think he’s given a way of going about the work of God and God things and in God’s world.  I think his example of pointing to people, getting into trouble and fun with them, and of making a life for and full of others is more than commendable for us, whether or not we consider ourselves theologians.

Of course, we all talk and make sense of God; in that way, aren’t we all theologians?  But we can benefit from the way this teacher and servant has chronicled his life.  If you’re interested, please read the memoir.  The content in the first pages is worth the purchase.  Then there’s the added benefit in getting through the pages.

Love of the Particular

Like his gentleness, his sense of craft was also out of step with the spirit of the times.  The world wanted work done quickly and cheaply.  The world wanted shortcuts.  The world wanted him to build houses of brick so soft that they would melt from watering the yard.  He was incapable of such work, so he was not rewarded as the world knows reward.  Yet he lived well, secure in the knowledge that he never built a house with a “hog in the wall” — that is, with one course more on one side of the house than the other.

There is a rock building back in the woods outside Mena, Arkansas, that my father and mother built.  Few people will ever see that building, though it is one of the most stunning rock jobs I have ever seen.  My father and mother could not have built it otherwise, for to do so would have offended my father’s sensibility.  To lay rock well you must see each rock individually, yet in relation to what may be the next rock to be laid.  To see each rock in this way requires a humility founded of the love of the particular.  This is the humility that characterized my father’s life.  And it was perhaps nowhere more apparent than when you walked with my father through the woods.

From Stanley Hauerwas’s, Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir