Our first main paper (minimum 800 words, submitted via email) asks you to come to terms with multiple texts and put them into conversation with each other. You can work with any combination of Barrett, Myers, Lynch, and Ratnayake, and you are also welcome to use other texts from outside of class. Include at least two texts overall and at least one of our class texts.
Your goal in this paper is to make an argument about the texts you discuss, focusing in particular on their uses and limitations. Your argument should address some combination of the following prompts:
- Identify which aspects of these texts’ thinking on mindfulness you find most useful, persuasive, and insightful, and explain what makes this understanding helpful;
- Identify which aspects of these texts’ thinking you find limited, and explain what the approach overlooks or fails to address.
- Articulate your own thinking on mindfulness and situate it alongside the thinking from the texts you analyze.
In order to support and substantiate your argument, it will help to perform Harris’s other moves for “coming to terms” and some new ones as you put the texts into conversation:
- Define the authors’ projects, noting their aims, methods, and materials;
- Quote keywords and passages from the texts, explaining their significance;
- Note where the authors’ thinking intersects and diverges, where they agree and disagree, where their thinking overlaps or goes in different directions.
These challenges give you an opportunity to incorporate your own thinking on mindfulness, particularly if you agree with something but want to expand on it or if you find that some idea or perspective is lacking from the conversation. You are welcome to incorporate examples to further illustrate how these perspectives on mindfulness are useful or limited.
As you develop your thinking, keep in mind Harris’s note about opposition: “In writing as an intellectual, then, you need to push beyond the sorts of bipolar oppositions (pro or con, good or evil, guilty or innocent) that frame most of the arguments found on editorial pages and TV talk shows. Intellectual writers usually work not with simple antitheses (either x or not-x) but with positive opposing terms—that is, with words and values that don’t contradict each other yet still exist in some real and ongoing tension” (25). In this sense, you are trying to enrich and expand on our thinking about mindfulness, helping us consider it from multiple perspectives.