Making Maps of Reality.
Written by Alex Schoenstein
In New Zealand he was a band manager, club owner and writer for a magazine. He transferred to Boston where he became a museum curator, visual artist and doctorate student. Now in St. Louis, he’s a band frontman, published poet and world traveler. These are not the covers and destinations of a jet-setting secret agent, but the career of Webster’s religious studies professor, Dr. Chris Parr.
Q: Why religious studies?
A: I went to Canterbury University to study English literature because of my interest in poetry, but I also tried out religious studies and absolutely loved it. I was just blown right away by the different ways in which human beings think about the same world and the same sort of life experiences that we have.
Q: Could you elaborate on the book that you’ve been writing in the field of religious studies?
A: The book’s working title is “Maps of Reality: Making Sense of Religions in a World That’s Full of Them.” It’s motivated by…having listened to people talking about religions in ways that are not really taking into account the varieties of different religions, and not really understanding how religions function generally in other people’s lives rather than in their own personal experience. While a lot of people try to emphasize the similarities between religions, I come out more on the side of the multiplicity of them.
Q: You’ve published a book of poetry, “Going to find it.” What can you tell me about how your love for poetry was fostered and has developed?
A: I was raised in a very artistic family with a strong love of all the arts. I discovered that I had a way with words that could get people to admire and respond warmly to things that I wrote as poems. It was one of those things where the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it. And the more I enjoyed it, the more I learned. Poets, like musicians, are weird idiosyncratic people, and it turns out that I kind of thrive on weird and idiosyncratic people. I have really developed my sense of poetry as my art form. It’s where my own artistic strengths and convictions lay.
Q: How does St. Louis compare with some of the other places that you’ve lived?
A: I really enjoy it here. I find that I don’t have the time to get to everything that’s going on in the city that I want to. I have long said to people that if you can’t get to everything you want to in a place, you’re in a good place, because you’re not going to get bored.