Devon Spier– Trashing Platitudes, Recycling Fears: Ritualizing Humour and Irreverence in the Pandemic
Devon Spier is an author and visual poet theologian (proemologian), who weaves and teaches others to weave poems, prose and theology through digital images.
She is currently the most published author on Ritualwell.org and has resourced nearly every mainstream movement, network and denomination of Judaism to explore the intersections of hope and hopelessness, trauma and recovery, humour and doubt, loneliness and safe-keeping.
Specifically, her work has been consulted and published by the London School for Jewish Studies, the Reconstructing Judaism movement, The Union for Reform Judaism, Liberal Judaism (UK), Jewish Women’s Archives, Hevria and Jewcer: The Leading Crowdfunding Platform for Jewish Causes, the City Museum of New York, Ben Yehuda Press, Repair The World, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and most recently, the National Council of Jewish Women, which used her work to resource their members on solidarity with indigenous sovereignty and rituals for reproductive freedom.
An advocate for encounter across differences in the global religious community, Devon has been honoured with peacebuilding awards from the YMCA and Interfaith Grand River as well the Outstanding Achievement Award for a Religious Studies Major and the Peter C. and Elisabeth Williams Memorial Scholarship in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Waterloo.
In 2018, she was selected as the first Canadian rabbinic student to participate in the T’ruah Rabbinic and Cantorial Summer Fellowship in Human Rights and was blessed to intern through the Women’s Prison Association. She was also recognized by the Ontario Government as a recipient of the “Leading Women, Building Communities” award.
Devon is currently studying rabbinics at the Academy for Jewish Religion (New York).
The author of two bestselling books, “Heart Map and the Song of Our Ancestors” (2018) and “Whatever it is, gently: Quiet Meditations for the Noise of the Pandemic” (2020), Devon’s poetry conveys the possibility of a deeper listening to anyone who stands at the Jewish margins, whom she regards as the actual centre of Jewish life and spiritual practice.
Devon will be teaching four workshops throughout the two weeks:
- Workshop 1- Ritualizing Humour and Irreverence
Perusing an amusing array of panic-inducing news headlines, we’ll lean into fear, explore a year in this strange pandemic life and laugh about it. Turning our socially distanced habits and mediocre daily accomplishments (think: remembering pants) into poem, prose and monologue, we’ll create a tefilat covid (daily prayer) for the year that doesn’t seem to end. And with the company of ancestors Jon Stewart, Groucho Marx, Tiffany Haddish, Gilda Radner and Yehuda Ha-Nasi, come out of the drab and the dramatic with the very real wisdom of our dry but blooming lives.
- Workshop 2- Reducing Panic
In this niggun-sharing, embodied workshop, we will experience prayer as breath and use singing and trauma-informed writing practice to experience both physical and psychic rootedness in our past and in our present. Talking out our life stories, we’ll greet the questions that ache at us and using neurological body awareness, we’ll use the words of “Elohai Neshama” (My Pure Soul) to not only start where we are but enhance who we really are by embracing all our conflicting and soothing parts of our lifespans and pandemic days for hopefulness of growth and transformation.
- Workshop 3- Re-using Platitudes
In a safe and supportive environment, participants will share their social and societal anxieties and create their life verse, or a response to the platitudes and pleasantries that most trouble their complicated hearts. In this workshop, participants will be introduced to proemology, or the discipline of creating personal theology through digital images, in this case, a spiritual practice of responding digitally to the psalms. Through a guided host screenshare, individual participants will work with the facilitator to “nevi-meme” (a play on nevi’im or ‘prophets’) or create relevant Jewish social commentary on viral internet images of the pandemic. And together, participants will find a way to channel what existentially ails them into a force for what nourishingly anchors them.
- Workshop 4- Re-cycling Fear
This program will involve co-teaching how to make the infamous pandemic sourdough bread starter but with a guided meditation twist. By accessing the familiar comforts of bread-making, we will find the presence of heart, mind and body to cultivate our own futures and turn our fright into soul food. Please note that participants will be sent the bread recipe prior to the workshop and will be expected either to participate by making the bread with the workshop leaders or alternatively imagining bread making using their body to experience the process; either and both are most welcome and you are encouraged to participate as you are able.