KidSpirit OnLine: Where Young Souls Take On the Big–Old–Questions

The cover of The Best of KidSpirit OnLine, Vol. II, shows a intense sport bicyclist. Photo by Jack True.

Cover of the latest print version of The Best of KidSpirit OnLine Vol. III with a photo c 2014 by Jack True.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Does truth have inherent value? What is beauty?

Those are questions many writers won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, except maybe ironically. Or else so circuitously that no one will notice that we’re actually taking on one of the biggies . . . the better to save face if we mess up.

But the brave – very young – souls of something called KidSpirit OnLine don’t mind going where cautious, old timey writers like myself would rather not tread.

A dozen or so happy teenagers sit on the front steps of a brick building. The editorial board of KidSpirit meets to discuss future issues. Photo c 2014 by Jon Hochman

The editorial board of KidSpirit meets to discuss future issues. Photo c 2014 by Jon Hochman

Nimai Agarwal, all of 14 years old and a resident of Germantown, Maryland, asks, “With so many ideas of beauty and art . . . can there be such a thing as an ‘essence’ when dealing with beauty in art?”

Nimal takes a stab at an answer in his on-line essay for KidSpirit. In music and elsewhere, he writes, beauty is relative. “My mother can’t get behind the idea of dubstep,” he says, “but it has many fans who swear by it!”

But is there an essence, something that runs through every experience of the beautiful? Yes, writes Nimal. “For this I turn to love . . . It is when we love something that we see the beauty in it.”

OK, so much for beauty. How about truth? Does truth have inherent value?

Sofiy Inck, a 15-year-old Brooklynite, addresses that one. She describes getting into a little argument with her Greek (!) teacher in class. Her teacher admires Socrates, but Sofiy asserts

Abstract multicolored art with circles and squares by for Kidspirit Online by Eliie Green. Art by Ellie Green.

Abstract art: some will love it, others won’t, Nimai Agarwal writes. Art c 2014 by Ellie Green.

that Socrates, in cold-heartedly dismantling Euthyphro’s idea of piety, was being unnecessarily cruel to Euthyphro.

Sofiy thinks it over and concludes there are two types of truth — observable truth and personal truth. Gravity falls into the category of observable truth.

Personal truth would include such things as a person’s experience of God. That kind of truth

Waterfall painting in soft blues and tans for Kidspirit Online magzine by Eleanor Goetz. Art by Eleanor Goetz.

Art c 2014 by Eleanor Goetz.

varies from person to person, Sofiy concludes. And too often, Sofiy says, we get so busy pursuing our personal truths that we devalue how other people feel about their personal truths.

Sofiy comes from a family whose members don’t all share the same religious faith. And she’s sensitive to the fact that asserting her particular personal truths – religious or political – at a family dinner can cause pain to others.

Remarkably, at essay’s end, young Sofiy is able to stand up to her teacher and to the venerable Socrates of old – and insist that relationships are more important than locating, asserting and “proving” one’s truth to all comers.

The world needs more Sofiys.

KidSpirit Online is a free on-line magazine for teenagers. It’s written and edited by young people and seeks to engage its readers in the big questions. The program is based in New York, but contributers come from all over the world. Poet Swastika Jajoo, 17, of New Delhi; interfaith columnist Fareeha Shah, 17, of Pakistan, and artist Richard Guzman, 16, of Worcester, Mass., are just a few.

Abstract art with angular shapes for KidSpirt OnLine by Summer Schauber. Art c 2014 by Summer Schauber.

More abstract art for Nimai Agarwal to ponder. Art c 2014 by Summer Schauber.

If you know of a talented teen with an inclination toward the spiritual and life’s big questions – poet, writer, artist, photographer, reviewer, cartoonist, or joke teller — I encourage you to pass along this link to KidSpirit Online where they can click on the “submit your work” tab and find themselves amidst kindred spirits.

KidSpirit was founded by Elizabeth Dabney Hochman, who was in Decatur last month for the Religion Newswriters Association conference, where she accepted the Schachern Online Religion Section of the Year, Honorable Mention Award, for KidSpirit OnLine. Congrats to Elizabeth and the artists, writers and editorial board of KidSpirit.

John Adams, composer of the controversial opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” talks about the creative process at “There Are Lots of Ways to Be Creative — What’s Yours?”  Young or old, we can all use some fresh writing tips from time to time. Here are some “Personal Writing Tips Stolen From My Coaches.”

A circular mandala by Gracie Lowres, created for KidSpirit OnLine's Rituals & Traditions issue. Art c 2014 by Gracie Lowres

“Mandala,” by Gracie Gralike. c KidSpirit OnLine.

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