GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

Web sites, TV, films, books and the search for meaning.

Buddhism, poverty, jihad, spirituality — all on one website

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Enrichment, pic01So many people are dividing us — even on the Web, which was supposed to connect us. Then there are others like my friend Mike Schwager, with his site Enrichment.com.

“As the world converges technologically, so is the time also ripe for a convergence and new integration between people, races, genders, religions and cultures . . . coming together and finding common ground through dialogue and heart-felt expression,” the site says. Mike’s language may be flowery, but imagine if he and his contributors can pull it off.

And you could hardly find more variety among the writers, and their topics.

There’s an essay on love as a nutrient by Thich Nhat Hanh, leader of a Vietnamese version of Zen Buddhism. There’s a nugget by philosopher Joseph Campbell on myths as “the dynamic of life.” Other quotes come from motivational guru Wayne Dyer and metaphysical philosopher Eckhart Tolle.

Enrichment helpfully groups its many topics into broad clickable categories:

Spirituality, including intelligent design human treatment of animals (a topic close to Schwager’s heart).

Human Potential, including the teachings of Ernest Holmes, the founder of Science of Mind.

Humanitarian Issues like hunger, microcredit and combating world poverty.

Dialogue, such as the open letter from Muslim leaders to Jews in the wake of the 2009 attacks on Jews in Britain.

The categories are loose, though; a piece on the blessings of solitude is under Human Potential when it could just as well been under Spirituality. Fortunately, many of the articles are crosslinked.

There’s a bonus in the right-hand siderail: a list of “Great Documents.” These include the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There’s even a Universal Declaration of Animal Rights, from a British group called Uncage. (I told you Schwager paid close attention to treatment of animals.)

Enrichment is a site of good will, but its presentation is, well, rather retro: two siderails, no pictures, lots of words in long paragraphs. This is understandable for a site, as Mike tells me, that hasn’t been updated in awhile. That the articles are still current is testament to his skill in choosing foresighted writers. But the site still needs updating.

Some ideas to update it might include Flash animation and flyout links to related articles inside the site. Photos of the contributing writers would help visual appeal. So would a slideshow of various religious art, architecture and such that brought out the themes. The Pluralism Project at Harvard University is a good example of such a site.

Enrichment also suffers from the same flaw of other websites of the type: sectarianism. Now, that may seem an odd name for a site that tries to bridge borders. But in my experience, interfaith groups attract mainly those who are interested in interfaith relations. So do human potential organizations. If Enrichment is meant for people who are interested in human potential and interfaith relations, it will appeal to a minority of a minority.

How to bridge this particular gap? One way would be to draw people into the conversation from the more conservative, inward-turned wings of religious groups, rather than just the liberal, outgoing wings. They could address topics of common interest.

All that said, Enrichment is worth your attention. It’s a sad fact that many websites get attention for negative reasons: hate, fear, prejudice. Sites like Schwager’s deserve a look. You might see something there that you’ll find, well, enriching.

James D. Davis

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Written by Jim Davis

December 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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