Monday afternoon, writer Roger Rosenblatt and retired Bishop John Shelby Spong gathered in the Hall of Philosophy to discuss Rosenblatt’s new book, Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief, and Small Boats. His second book on grief, Kayak Morning chronicles Rosenblatt’s effort to navigate his emotions after losing his daughter, Amy. Two and a half years after her death, Rosenblatt took up kayaking, finding a man alone in a boat to be an apt metaphor for his experience.The book consists of short entries — conversations, accounts, definitions, words for Amy. In a dialogue with his therapist, Rosenblatt defines his pursuit. “What do you want?” she said. “I want out.” “What do you really want?” “I want her back.” “Well,” she said, “you’ll have to find a way to get her back.” Sherra Babcock, director of the Department of Education, introduced Rosenblatt and Spong and intermittently read excerpts from Rosenblatt’s book, followed by questions about grief, writing and loss. Spong’s experiences with grief span the personal and the professional. He endured the loss of his wife after more than a decade of mental illness and cancer treatment. As a pastor, he dealt frequently with grieving parishioners, many of whom did not receive what he felt the church should provide. Conventional intersections of grief and faith have caused disillusionment with God or the religious community for both Spong and Rosenblatt. Spong said that religion is not what helped him with his grief. A traditional form of prayer, for instance, was unsatisfactory for both. Spong felt more prayerful in listening to a troubled friend than in religious clichés addressed to God. Rosenblatt has not prayed since his daughter’s death. Rosenblatt says his book is ultimately a quest with the mantra, “I want her back.” In Kayak Morning, he learns that he can get her back by recalling how much he loves her. She lives in that love.Rosenblatt’s book concludes with resolution. “This morning when I climbed into my kayak and headed out, I knew that I would be going nowhere, as I have been going nowhere for the past two and a half years. But my love for my daughter makes somewhere out of nowhere. In this boat, on this creek, I am moving forward, even as I am moving in circles. Amy returns in my love, alive and beautiful. I have her still.”"
Roger Rosenblatt is a journalist, author, playwright, and teacher. William Safire of the New York Times wrote that his work represents "some of the most profound and stylish writing in America today." His television essays for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS have won a Peabody and an Emmy award. His essays for TIME magazine have won two George Polk Awards, awards from the American Bar Association, the Overseas Press Club, and others.
Rosenblatt's journalism career began in 1975 as literary editor of The New Republic. He has also been a columnist and editor-at-large for Life magazine, the editor of U.S. News & World Report, a columnist and editorial board member of The Washington Post and editor-at-large of TIME, Inc. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, Esquire and elsewhere.
He is the author of ten books, including a collection of his writings, The Man in the Water, Coming Apart: A Memoir of the Harvard Wars of 1969, and the national bestseller, Rules for Aging. His book Children of War (1983) won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent book, Lapham Rising (2006), his first novel, was loosely based on the lecture he delivered on major trends of the 20th century at Chautauqua in 2004.
Rosenblatt is currently a professor in the English department at Stony Brook University, where he teaches in the writing program at Stony Brook Southampton. He was most recently the Edward R. Murrow Visiting Professor of the Practice of the Press and Public Policy at Harvard University and held the Parsons Family Chair at the Southampton graduate campus of Long Island University.
Bishop John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong, whose books have sold more than a million copies, was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2001. Acclaimed as a teaching bishop who makes contemporary theology accessible to the ordinary layperson, he is considered the champion of an inclusive faith, both inside and outside the Christian church. In one of his recent books, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Discover the God of Love (2005), Bishop Spong sought to introduce readers to a new way to engage the holy book of the Judeo-Christian tradition. A committed Christian who has spent a lifetime studying the Bible and whose life has been deeply shaped by it, Bishop Spong says that he is a believer who knows and loves the Bible deeply, but who recognizes that parts of it have been used to undergird prejudices and to mask violence.
A visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches worldwide, Bishop Spong delivers more than 200 public lectures each year to standing-room-only crowds. He was previously a 2:00 pm Lecturer of the Week at Chautauqua in 2000. His bestselling books include Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, A New Christianity for a New World, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and Here I Stand. His extensive media appearances include a profile segment on "60 Minutes" as well as appearances on "Good Morning America," "Fox News Live," "Politically Incorrect," "Larry King Live," "The O'Reilly Factor," "William F. Buckley's Firing Line," and "Extra." His newest book is Eternal Life: A New Vision - Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell.
In conversation with John Shelby Spong, bishop of the Newark Episcopal Diocese, journalist and essayist Roger Rosenblatt discusses the loss of his daughter and dealing with grief. In his book, Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief and Small Boats, Rosenblatt writes, “when you love someone every moment is shadowed by the fear of loss, and when the loss occurs you feel more love than ever.”