Orr Forum attempts to answer age old question

In our lives we ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be human? What is our purpose? What divine creatures are we?”

This year, the Orr Forum will communicate the evidence, arguments, and answers people look for to the community.

The Orr Forum, which began in 1964, is touted as “the most prestigious academic event on campus” according to Wilson College Orr Forum webpage. A lecture series that brings prestigious thinkers to campus from different regions of religious studies, the Orr Forum in past years has approached topics of race, the relationship of church and state, the AIDS crisis, and Islam.

In past years, this event lasted only one week. This year, however, it will present these topics in a new format which will continue all year and will entail interval presentations revolving around what it means to be human.

On Sept. 3, English Professor Larry Shillock set these events in motion with his presentation “The Walking Dead, Television Advertising, and the Epistles of Saint Paul.” Shillock brought up new ideas about the popular television series that viewers have never considered before; the same will be expected from the many other speakers this year.

Discussing his presentation, Shillock said, “The television series expresses the ideas of human embodiment and the battle humans go through within the flesh.”

Taylor Staudt ‘15, who attended the presentation, said, “I thought it was very interesting that he related his topic to a TV show, which was a good for the younger audience.”

Shillock used literary works to support his argument and referenced old readings to make a connection between religion and English literature.

“Reading old stories teach humans how to act, to direct people in the right direction, and give humans morals”, said Shillock as he sat in the aged chair in the middle of his office filled with old novels and books.

Zina Long ’15, one of many other students who attended the presentation, expressed, “Larry did a good job of showing the teachings of Paul and The Walking Dead.”

Shillock, excited how the community will respond to these sessions said, “The sessions and topics are like building blocks to the answer we are seeking.”

The director and event organizer of the Orr Forum, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy and Religion Chair David True, said he is very excited about this year’s sessions.

“The purpose of the Orr Forum is to raise questions, get people to think and deepen their thoughts” said True.

Humans today remain busy with life and dealing with the responsibilities that we all experience, but True and the other Forum participants want for the community to push the pause button on all that, reflect upon the magnitude of the ideas presented, and to ask questions.

When directly asked “What does it mean to be human?” True took a moment to collect himself and  at first seemed troubled with the question. Then a light bulb in his head flickered, and he shared a laugh or two.

“Many things,” he said. “We are complex creatures. There is something divine about us, a type of transcendence. We can be bad, good, broken, and flowered but what we seek is a heightened moral understanding.”

So, what does it mean to be human? Our questions still has no answer, but instead has possibly become more complex now as we consider these topics.

The next Orr Forum event, “The History of the Human Animal” presented by Associate Professor of Biology Laura Altfeld, will take place October 2. Everyone from the community is welcome to attend, discuss these topics, and ask questions related to the Forum’s content. You never know you just might have that light bulb moment and become the next Orr Forum scholar.

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