Soul Share

"striving with the same soul" (Phil 1:27)

“He then who has observed with intelligence the administration of the world, and has learned that the greatest and supreme and the most comprehensive community is that which is composed of men and God -- for these only are by their nature formed to have communion with God, being by means of reason conjoined with God -- why should not such a man call himself a citizen of the world, why not a son of God, and why should he be afraid of anything which happens among men?"
Epictetus, Discourses, 1.9.3

Description of Soul Share

The name Soul Share has a double meaning. It can refer to sharing ourselves -- our thoughts, feelings, and actions -- with each other. It also refers to the ancient Greek concept of friendship in which friends were people so close that it was like sharing the same soul. The primary principle here is that humans are capable of progressing towards a goal of full maturity as humans by practicing philosophical (or "spiritual") exercises within a community of friendship. This was the core of the practices Paul taught to groups of people, mainly gentiles who had become influenced by a form of Hellenistic-Jewish philosophy, who were meeting within the social construct of the Roman household with Paul functioning as a philosophical advisor.

EDUCATION Soul Share School Learning how to think about the world, your place in it, and what it is you want to become.
EXPERIENCE Soul Share Dialogues Developing a world-wide community of friendship with people who also are serious about making progress toward experiencing a flourishing life.
EXCHANGE Soul Share Dialogues Encouraging each other, discussing important issues related to living a philosophical life, sharing experiences, learning from each other, becoming people who can guide the souls of others to maturity.
EXERCISE Soul Therapy Contemplating on a collection of wisdom from a variety of ancient sources (Paul of Tarsus, Jesus of Nazareth, Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, etc.) who provide instructions on philosophical exercises and moral advice on how to live strong, independent, and meaningful lives.
ENGAGEMENT Soul Share mobile Engaging in life and staying in contact with the Soul Share community.
EXAMINATION Soul Share Periodically assessing your progress including your mental life, your relationship with others and the world, coping with circumstances of life, your self-sufficiency, self-control, tranquility, and the level of happiness/flourishing you are experiencing in life.

As your host (read more about me), I am creating this social community website during a six-month sabbatical from January through June 2013. I am developing the following features.

  • I am designing this website using an open source content management system called Drupal (version 7.18). The site is being hosted by GreenGeeks.com, a green web hosting service, which uses an energy efficient infrastructure, is 300% wind powered, and is carbon neutral friendly. I am using the Omega theme, a fully responsive HTML 5 layout. This means the website will automatically adjust itself to different-sized monitors including notepads and smart phones.
  • I am writing a draft of what I plan to be a book called (Trans)Forming Christian Communities: Reconnecting with Ancient Philosophical Practices. I've written most of the first three chapters.
  • An important aspect of, what is called in ancient Greek philosophy, psychagogy, the "leading of the soul," is functioning within a community of friendship. For this reason I'm developing an area for personal dialogue, what's commonly referred to as forum discussion. I envision it to be a place where people will share themselves, their thoughts, ideas, and examples from their own lives of how they are practicing this "art of living" within a context of being a follower of the example of Jesus as represented in the writings of the early followers of Jesus.
  • In a subdomain called Soul Share School I have installed an open source course (or learning) management system called Moodle (version 2.5). This website also has themes which adjust to the type of device within a web browser (there is a Moodle app, but at the moment it's not working for me). I plan to design a number of courses and offer them periodically. The first will be a course based on the book contained in the Soul Share site.
  • At this point my idea is to have only a few of the informational pages available for people to read, though I may already be changing my mind about that. In order to participate in forum discussions, read the book and comment (or perhaps only to be able to comment), or enroll in online courses, people will need to register with Soul Share and have a username and password. People will need to be willing to agree to the policies and procedures I'll outline. Since an important concept with Stoic philosophy, one I think the Apostle Paul adopted in some form, was cosmopolitanism -- the idea the that the whole world is our city and every person is a brother or sister -- I intend for this site to be welcoming of all like-minded people wherever they live. The concept of oikeiosis also describes the way in which the immature person goes from selfishness and self-preservation to progress to a mature state of completeness (commonly translated with the English word perfection) in which s/he naturally becomes outward caring and altruistic. Therefore, I hope that this site develops internationally. By its very nature, however, this site will appeal to more educated (many people are turned off by discussions of philosophy, literature, history, and language) and affluent people (affluent enough to own a computer). They will probably be people who enjoy participating in online social communities, which many people do not like to do.
  • If you've read my lengthy bio (About the Host), you'll know I've been a preacher's kid and a pastor myself. I'll confess that I am currently not attending church for some personal reasons. This website is an experiment in whether the form of Christianity I'm advocating can develop as a virtual experience. I have objections to the concept of church as it has developed. I don't really have anything against the practice of worship programs, hymn-singing, praise music, prayers, and sermons. But I don't think that what passes for the Christian life has power to transform people's lives in real ways -- mostly it makes people feel good and gives them just enough hope to hang on from one Sunday to the next. The early Christian communities were probably made up of members of an extended family including the people with whom the family had other social relations, in other words "clients" of the householder or "retainers" of his patronage. They formed the social bond of friendship. In many churches today, people see each other for an hour or two a week and hardly ever speak to each other during that time, let alone during the week. The technology we have available to us now can enable us to be in contact with others to whom we're committed and work together with each other to help each other make progress in our development day by day, even hour by hour.
  • At the core of my research is the practice of philosophical exercises, many of which have come down to us through their influence in monastic traditions of the church and more recently through psychology in cognitive behavioral therapy. I'm thinking about how to measure personal growth and development. What kind of online assessment tool can I create that will tell people where they are at in their progress and how much they progress over time? My plan is to create such a tool and incorporate it within Soul Share. That's why I'm also developing my skills in the programming language PHP and in the MySQL database system. I imagine making all aspects of the Soul Share experience connect to this system so that people will know what stage people are at in their development. Those who are neophytes ("newbies" or "noobs" in current lingo) will know who are more advanced and can look to them for leadership as "soul guides." Anyone, of course, can be a "physican of the soul" for anyone else and apply therapeutic words. At first this will function by reading philosophical queries, a method of self-examination used by Quakers.
  •  I anticipate some people wanting to meeting together face-to-face. There is a movement in some European countries to encourage people to form philosophical clubs. Various groups are coming up with guidelines for what people might do when they get together. I will be thinking about how to give some guidance to that. When people create a profile, the address is automatically plotted by geolocation. The link User Locations in the left side-bar navigational menu displays a map with pins showing geographical locations.

In the nature of experimentation, I don't know what will come of this -- if anything. I will have learned much about my research topic and about developing sites with the latest versions of Drupal and Moodle, as well as learning some PHP/MySQL. If that's all that happens, that's fine. But let's see what comes of this.

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