Interview with Shane Crash

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I caught up with writer and piz­za enthu­si­ast Shane Crash about his upcom­ing nov­el For­est Life and his new activist col­lec­tive Paci­fist Army.

For a young man you have trav­eled around a lot; what are your favorite places?

I have sen­ti­men­tal attach­ments to Nas­sau, Bahamas and Paris, Ten­nessee. I like Brook­lyn a lot and I like the more coastal areas of the north­west I like to camp a lot so I pre­fer the parts of the US that are rich in spruce forests and moun­tains.

Any­where you haven’t been that you would like to vis­it?

There’s a monastery in Ethiopia that I’d like to vis­it. I think you have to hike like 5 or 6 miles to get to it, so that would be a cool kind of pil­grim­age I’d like to do.

If you hit the road tomor­row what are some essen­tial things you would car­ry with you?

I’d prob­a­bly just fill my old famil­iar back­pack with a few water bot­tles and some books and gra­nola bars. I’ve always trav­eled light.

You are cur­rent­ly in Port­land. Is it true that it is where young peo­ple go to retire?

That state­ment is very accu­rate. I enjoy Port­land quite a bit. Every city has its own spir­it I think and Portland’s is amus­ing and fun. It’s a more pro­gres­sive city than St. Louis, where I pre­vi­ous­ly lived. I like Port­land because the Pacif­ic North­west is sim­ply gor­geous and it feels a bit less indus­tri­al­ized in parts than the mid­west or the east coast. I encour­age every­one to come vis­it and hike or camp, find some peace­ful­ness.

Speak­ing of peace, tell me about Paci­fist Army.

I start­ed Paci­fist Army to raise mon­ey for the Chris­t­ian Peace­mak­er Teams. Those are groups of non­vi­o­lent peace­mak­ers who trav­el to areas of con­flict to medi­ate and par­tic­i­pate in non­vi­o­lent direct action. Paci­fist Army is a small com­mu­ni­ty of folks who want to live out ene­my love and do away with the myth of redemp­tive vio­lence. That strug­gle start­ed with the Ser­mon on the Mount, so we still have faith that Chris­tians can self sac­ri­fi­cial­ly serve one anoth­er and espe­cial­ly their ene­mies.

Is the focus pri­mar­i­ly on nation­al con­flict or does the kind of peace­mak­ing you speak about apply to people’s day-to-day lives?

Both. I think peace­mak­ing begins with a man’s heart and spreads to his com­mu­ni­ty and beyond. Peace­mak­er Teams are nor­mal­ly deal­ing with region­al con­flict or in areas where two nations are wag­ing war.

Do you believe that war and vio­lence can be elim­i­nat­ed from human soci­ety?

There are a lot of great argu­ments and the­o­ries regard­ing that, con­vinc­ing ideas on both sides of the spec­trum. I have some thoughts on the issue but rather than go on about how many essays I’ve read I’ll just say that I think all peo­ple need to focus on their indi­vid­ual rela­tion to their neigh­bors and the world around them. Peo­ple need to con­scious­ly decide not to hate or curse or blame any­one else for their anger or bit­ter­ness or for the vio­lence in their heart. We can’t blame any­one but our­selves for not con­trol­ling our emo­tions and lov­ing one anoth­er.

You are admit­ted lover of comics; if you could assem­ble a super­hero peace­mak­ing team, who would be on it, liv­ing or dead, real or fic­tion?

Leo Tol­stoy, MLK, Gand­hi, and Dorothy Day and of course Jesus. That would be a great dynam­ic I imag­ine.

Let’s talk about your writ­ing. How was writ­ing For­est Life dif­fer­ent than past works like Lost Thoughts and Trav­el Logs?

It’s been a learn­ing expe­ri­ence. It’s a con­cise sto­ry and I’ve had to dis­ci­pline myself. With Lost Thoughts and Trav­el Logs I could be slop­py and just put out inco­her­ent ram­blings, lament­ing my frus­tra­tions and despair while won­der­ing through the world look­ing at soci­ety and accept­ing that things are screwed up every­where. In those works I was bla­tant­ly cyn­i­cal and the sen­ti­men­tal­ist in me rarely shows up. When I wrote those I was bor­der­line sui­ci­dal and drunk most nights and I was liv­ing out of a back­pack sleep­ing in alleys and shel­ters and train cars most nights. I couldn’t rec­on­cile that most peo­ple are born into that crap, that envi­ron­ment and they nev­er real­ly know any­thing else but des­per­a­tion and suf­fer­ing and desire. Of course I fig­ured out that the dilem­ma I just described is iden­ti­cal to every­one from all walks of life. We’re all dis­con­tent and des­per­ate and we all suf­fer and desire things we don’t need, etc. It’s just a bloody mess down here, ain’t it? Any­way, For­est Life is a con­cise nov­el with under­ly­ing threads of com­men­tary and nar­ra­tives in the lit­tle details. I focused on mir­ror­ing all the cyn­i­cism in me with beau­ty and good­ness as well.

What is For­est Life about?

For­est Life is a par­tial­ly auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal retelling of my strug­gle to sus­tain the will to live. It fol­lows a character’s inter­nal and exter­nal strug­gle to con­tin­ue liv­ing after endur­ing the death of a loved one. It starts in the mid­dle of the con­flict, the char­ac­ter has retreat­ed to a cab­in on Ken­tucky Lake where he lives alone and essen­tial­ly drinks him­self numb.

You men­tioned your love of wood­ed places. Does your nov­el For­est Life have any con­nec­tion to places you’ve been?

Yeah, I decid­ed to write this sto­ry while I was rent­ing a cab­in on Ken­tucky Lake for a cou­ple months and I’ve always felt a kind of strange ele­men­tal force out in the wild. I pre­fer that kind of envi­ron­ment to cities and sub­urbs and malls.

Do you have a writ­ing rou­tine?

I nor­mal­ly walk around the city (Port­land) from 1 a.m. until 3 or 4 a.m talk­ing to folks or hand­ing out water or toi­letries and then I write from 4ish until 9 or 10 a.m. I like to write in the morn­ing when the world is qui­et and I can think clear­ly and lis­ten.

One thing that I enjoy about your writ­ing is that it has spir­i­tu­al over­tones with­out regur­gi­tat­ing the nor­mal reli­gious rhetoric. How would you sum­ma­rize your beliefs?

I guess I’m kind of the doubters wit­ness. I strug­gle to have faith, every sin­gle day I go back and forth and round and round. As much as I want to be like my stead­fast, undoubt­ing friends, I’m just not. I have a hard time believ­ing in mir­a­cles or hope or pur­pose but I want to believe and I try to choose to believe that despite all of this mess, despite how com­plete­ly screwed up things have been since humans hit the scene, I choose to have faith that things can be put back togeth­er, that there’s good­ness and love and beau­ty to be had amidst this chaos and suf­fer­ing.

I won’t go into the­ol­o­gy or phi­los­o­phy or any­thing like that. I guess I’ll just say that on good days I believe that Jesus can put all of cre­ation back togeth­er. I think that he can put us as humans back togeth­er. I don’t know. That’s the only hope I have to offer. It isn’t much, it’s just my word but it’s some­thing. Hope is every­thing ain’t it?

You talked about strug­gling with faith. Many of the young peo­ple I talk to today skew towards athe­ism. Why do you think this is?

A lot of rea­sons I sup­pose. My strug­gle with faith stems from lack of evi­dence and things like that cer­tain­ly, you know sci­ence has advanced so much and peo­ple have such a lim­it­ed knowl­edge of anthro­pol­o­gy to begin with, and a faith that can’t rec­on­cile those things and include those things is dif­fi­cult to sus­tain. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the harsh truth is that Chris­t­ian cul­ture has gen­er­al­ly neglect­ed those things and waged wars and cam­paigns against sci­ence and oth­er faiths. It’s hard to look at the mess Chris­tians have made and see Jesus. Not all the time, but often times, ya know espe­cial­ly in baby boomer evan­gel­i­cal cir­cles. I do see a shift away from idol­a­trous nation­al­ism and polit­i­cal hijack­ing, etc but there’s still a lot of dam­age to be repaired. Rather than be known as a com­mu­ni­ty against knowl­edge and gays and oth­er faiths, Chris­tians should be known for lov­ing all peo­ple with­out regard to any con­di­tion peri­od. We shouldn’t be sup­port­ing wars and homo­pho­bia and polit­i­cal oppres­sion. I think though that young folks and old folks alike are look­ing around and see­ing them­selves in their neigh­bors and that’s a pow­er­ful thing. I am cer­tain that we can fol­low Christ and that will reflect in the mea­sure and extent to which we love those around us rather than the beliefs we espouse.

How did you get hooked up with Civ­i­tas Press?

An author friend encour­aged me to send in a man­u­script, even though I had no idea what I was doing and I still don’t. My edi­tor Jonathan real­ly liked it and we talked it over. It seemed like a good fit. Jonathan’s been very help­ful and very kind to me despite the fact that I’m a clue­less kid.

You just start­ed a fundrais­er for a sum­mer tour for For­est Life. What are your plans for that?

I’m going to be doing to be doing read­ings and host­ing dis­cus­sions on non­vi­o­lence and lit­er­a­ture as well as pro­mot­ing Paci­fist Army.

Do you have any­thing else in the works?

I’m doc­u­ment­ing my expe­ri­ence with the home­less here in Port­land and I’m work­ing on a sci-fi nov­el but that’s all in the ear­ly stages so who knows where it will lead.

Final­ly if you could share a piz­za with any­one, who would it be?

Kurt Von­negut or MLK jr.

For­est Life is sched­uled for a June 1, 2012 release via Civ­i­tas Press. For more on Shane, check out www.shanecrash.com. To find about his tour and how you can help, vis­it his Indiegogo cam­paign page.

¶ Despatched on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 3:33 pm and sorted in Interviews. ¶ { ReTweet }

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