Doom of the Unexamined Life

We are under a blue-grey winter fog. The world is busily preparing for the momentary Thanksgiving pause before the rush of the rest of the year toward January’s stagnation. These are the accelerated winter months.

Plywood buildings are delayed, mud freezes, lights glow with diffuse aurae in the moist air of our long darkness. From every human endeavor steam rises to join the overhanging winterfog. Withered leaves still held by the green-grey trees rustle from time to time.

In my apartment I hear the noise of rushing water, then silence, then the sounds of distant traffic, and finally the ticking at the baseboards–unlike the footsteps of doom. The pen, however, scratches busily.

2 Kings 4:1-7

It seems to me the question that cracks the story open is the one you get from this part: “So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons.”

Why did she have to shut the door?

One of these sons of the prophets (faithful Israelites) died and left a widow and two orphans. She borrows money until she can’t, and now faces with her two sons a bleak prospect. Will the Lord help her?

She goes to the man of God, and his response is to think about it. Apparently he has no money about him, kind of like Peter in Acts and so many of the Lord’s impecunious servants. All of the instructions he gives make sense–you get the idea of what is going to happen–except the one about closing the door. What does that matter?

Is it to ward off potential thieves? Is it to keep anybody from finding out how the prophet is helping some lest others come to him afterward, carefully divesting themselves of all but one key possession? Is it his low-key, not-Elijah personality? What?

The do as they’re told, borrowing as many vessels as they can, and they do not neglect to shut the door. Then she begins to pour from the pot.

How would you have poured? Slowly, swiftly? What kind of pot was it? Was it an amphora or a jug? What we know is the strangest part: it just kept pouring. It reminds me of when our Lord multiplied the bread and fish. That had to be strange for anybody paying attention–disproportionate. Yet, as Lewis points out, perfectly Natural; this is what God does all the time, only here it is speeded up. What was strange was that with the bread and fish nobody apparently noticed the disproportion. The last disciple in line seems not to have been looking at the bread, and after that perhaps too busy. Who knows.

Still, in that room, in that house with the shut door, how weird would it have been for those boys bringing the vessels, for the woman pouring? At what point did it come creeping over their skin that something tremendous and uncanny is in the room with them?–and the door shut fast.

Of course, my purpose is not to Peter Jacksonise this episode. There was something uncanny, but it was someone good. The uncanny is the sense of an unexplained presence, and that is exactly what was shut with them in the room. And as they watched God’s provision, the Creator multiplying that oil the way he always did, only indoors and quickly, they had to have a growing sense of who was doing it.

I think the reason the door was shut was so they could be alone with God, and could know again what God in so many ways says to his people: that he is the husband of the widow and the father of the orphan. They were told to shut the door so that the Lord could say unambiguously: I am your husband; I am your father; I am with you and I am providing. And that is what the Lord says to his people in our difficulties and destitutions, our troubles and our bereavements.

Afterward, this woman goes back to the man of God and asks what she should do, and that also is interesting, and I think where the further application is. She does not count it her oil. The oil God gives is given for God’s purposes. She doesn’t dispose of it any way she wants. She has the means to hand to save herself, but she goes back to see what exactly she ought to do.

I think I’d have been tempted to solve my problems first and then breezily thank the prophet afterward. I’d have been tempted to think: I really don’t want to ask about the next step in case it isn’t the shortest visible route to the resolution of my problem. And that way of proceeding would have been wrong, not because it isn’t what was coming, but it shows how little I trust in the goodness of the Lord.

But he is the father of the orphan and the husband of the widow, and he is with his family. We are never destitute if we expect provision of the Lord. And that what the closed door discloses: a message that nourishes my weak faith, and admonishes me, and fills me with the consciousness of the goodness of God like all those vessels brimming with bright oil.

Tonic

In the torrent that constitutes the Imaginative Conservative I sometimes go, and sometimes read an article through. There is too much, and some of it is random, and some of it is Bradley Birzer effusing about popular culture.

But there is also Claes Ryn, and this is highly recommended. Tonic.

http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2011/10/decline-of-american-intellectual.html

Here are some of the words he uses:

“morality urgently needs the oxygen of sound thought and imagination”

“The proper religious commitment is assumed somehow to guarantee soundness of thought. The problem here is not that there is anything wrong with genuine religious devotion. It is that in the modern world religion has been so permeated by what Babbitt calls “sham spirituality” that it has become a major pollutant of the will, the mind and the imagination. No one is immune from religious-moral confusion and smugness. There is an urgent need for scrutinizing spiritual claims. Secondly, religious faith is, especially in an intellectual movement, no substitute for intellectual labor. Insufficient philosophical effort and discipline clouds and distorts central questions of human existence and weakens religion itself.”

“Some will predictably and smugly declare that religion offers all the nourishment for the soul that we really need. They indicate thereby a deformed and cramped conception of religion as well as of life in general. In fact, this kind of religiosity often goes together with a utilitarian-pragmatic attitude towards worldly matters.”

“careerism and greed”

Note to self: shoulda looked at the CU of A.

The Spontaneous Overflow of Powerful Emotion Recollected in Tranquility

I can remember more than anything the shock, the sheer surprise. I was trembling for the better part of an hour afterward. Of course, I was doing a lot of other things: getting dressed, making sure I had what I needed for the day at work, driving off, leaving coffee scattered all over the counter. But the moment itself was a brief intense moment of alarm, and then it fell off leaving me with the aftershocks.

I can well remember the pain: it hurt like billy-o for about five hours. The emotion at that point was of impatience and dull resignation; no curiosity whatever. No curiosity about the feelings, that is. I wanted to see the damage, but of course couldn’t bring myself to. Did not want a situation under control to get out of it.

Another surprise was how clear, how bright red my blood is, I remember that. By the time I cleaned up the original three large drops on the floor, they had dried somewhat. And that’s the dominant emotion: surprise, the sense of receiving things unexpected, the sense of narrowly having missed something worse.

I still managed to make a cup of coffee and even to drink it. The water had boiled while I was trying to stop the bleeding, the impatient kettle shouting. There was disappointment in the drinking of that hasty cup. I had to leave a mess, I had to go to work, it was serving no creative purpose and there was little enjoyment other than the satisfaction that this surprise did not terminally halt that enterprise.

It came after a morning of getting all kinds of things done. I was down to the last few things: had to take a shower, was going to wash up, have the last cup and then go to work. But I flipped the coffee grinder over while it was going in order to have the ground coffee in the lid. It escaped my nimble fingers, and said nimble middle finger was what actually stopped the whirling blade. That moment, not of pain, but of alarm, of heightened awareness unable to grasp the whole situation, and something gone very wrong was spontaneous and the overflow of powerful emotion leaked long into the day.

Eternity

The term ‘eternity past’ kept coming up on Sunday night and set me thinking. Why the adjective? And I think it is because we conceive of eternity somehow stretching endlessly back, an unimaginable distance out of which God comes.

Which may be. God could come out of an endless unbeginning we cannot fathom. It is hard at that stage to draw the line between the irrational and the super-rational. Still, for some reason to me it just doesn’t seem likely that eternity should have any relationship to time: that it is merely time stretched to the unmeasurable point. Though it could be. Perhaps time had no beginning, but that’s where I get the idea we are below, not above reason. No beginning to that which identifies beginning as a concept? I’m more inclined to think it did.

But I find also that I don’t think of time as a parenthesis in eternity. That strikes me as thinking of eternity in terms of time too: before and after said parenthesis. Or course, it may be that as temporal beings, we have to, and can’t really grasp anything above reason, at least not by reasoning. Which is obvious.

Which leaves the problem, doesn’t it, of what exactly eternity is. Is it an unchanging frozen endlessness of joy and splendor? Perhaps–how can we even know? But that is something else I do not think it is.

I think time is an external constraint, something that imposes beginnings and ends externally. I think eternity has change, has moments which reach their fullness and pass, but aren’t jostled by all the other moments. Everything has its perfection. Eternity is free of time, so that nothing is rushed and nothing every waits in boredom.

But what then, how does this take place?

Of course, I really have no clue, so I proceed by preferences and intimations. There are no doubt learned disquisitions for anyone who would rather. And maybe on these some handholds of certainty can be gained. There is the poem below that swerves into something good, but leaves the thing disappointingly unanswered. He was no fool.

Proceeding on my own, then, what is this idea of eternity as perfect moments bubbling up, maturing, and being somehow held in a brighter than present memory? Isn’t that time? It is not time because it is not externally regulated, but everything is regulated from within: each experience and situation grows to maturity uninterrupted, and is savored perfectly, unjostled by anything outside of it.

And then what? So our consciousness expands, taking in each perfection perfectly, and perhaps eventually simultaneous ones in harmony and counterpoint, like the mysterious music of the musician of heaven: Bach. And we are not ruled, like now we are, by spheres and motions within which we stand, but these things are inside us, not outside.

Art in some way is an intersection in time of eternity. You are absorbed into the thing, its rules and motions and experiences exist all independent of all other concerns. It creates a timeless moment that absorbs you so that you get the perfection of it.

Which is just to say that eternity is a differently measured time, isn’t it? Yeah, probably. I haven’t gone further.

The World
By Henry Vaughan

I SAW Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright,
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d, In which the world
And all her train were hurl’d;
The doting Lover in his queintest strain
Did their Complain,
Neer him, his Lute, his fancy, and his flights,
Wits sour delights,
With gloves, and knots the silly snares of pleasure
Yet his dear Treasure
All scatter’d lay, while he his eys did pour
Upon a flowr.

The darksome States-man hung with weights and woe
Like a thick midnight-fog mov’d there so slow
He did nor stay, nor go;
Condemning thoughts (like sad Ecclipses) scowl
Upon his soul,
And Clouds of crying witnesses without
Pursued him with one shout.
Yet dig’d the Mole, and lest his ways be found
Workt under ground,
Where he did Clutch his prey, but one did see
That policie,
Churches and altars fed him, Perjuries
Were gnats and flies,
It rain’d about him bloud and tears, but he
Drank them as free.

The fearfull miser on a heap of rust
Sate pining all his life there, did scarce trust
His own hands with the dust,
Yet would not place one peece above, but lives
In feare of theeves.
Thousands there were as frantick as himself
And hug’d each one his pelf,
The down-right Epicure plac’d heav’n in sense
And scornd pretence
While others slipt into a wide Excesse
Said little lesse;
The weaker sort slight, triviall wares Inslave
Who think them brave,
And poor, despised truth sate Counting by
Their victory.

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar’d up into the Ring,
But most would use no wing.
O fools (said I,) thus to prefer dark night
Before true light,
To live in grots, and caves, and hate the day
Because it shews the way,
The way which from this dead and dark abode
Leads up to God,
A way where you might tread the Sun, and be
More bright than he.
But as I did their madnes so discusse
One whisper’d thus,
This Ring the Bride-groome did for none provide
But for his bride.

Mid-November of the Unexamined Life

Flakes were drifting down. The skies were low, the air was damp and hanging over us like some kind of doom. That’s what I like about the winter: the quiet sense of consequence, as if we are going to be called upon at any moment for something, who knows what.

The wind shakes the few remaining leaves–that motion is a poignant thing. The cold wind, the bare branches, the withered clinging leaves, the cheerless light – all awaiting something grim. It’s coming, and it is what I am waiting for, prepared.

I saw the yellow blade of a plow on a new big truck. I don’t know why he was running around with a plow on, though, the snow is not here yet. But it is coming. Winter is coming and even now its harbingers stalk among us. They tell us it is near, like something tremendous and draped in the huge shadows of the wings offstage for the moment.

Winter

Yulius Clever

Yulius Clever

Get more here.

* * *

Since random blogging is what I’m reduced to at the moment, let me randomly add that That Hideous Strength is a book with many parts, and many brilliant moments. You can get lost in the suggestion of scene after scene. Keep it around when you are thrust into dull circumstances during the holidays, like a pocket wardrobe.

One is awed and troubled to think that something with so much good writing, careful thinking, brilliant ideas properly executed could still not quite add up to a satisfying whole. (To say that is to suggest too much that it is not a good book to finish, because it still has its satisfactions; they do pour in at the end.) One day when that book is in the public domain somebody with skill and insight needs to take it in hand and make it whole. Maybe in Lewis’s life it was a necessary stage on the way to Narnia, though the first book of the Ransom trilogy is coherent enough. Think of all the exotic and otherwise inaccessible situations he dreamed up and has introduced us to. One does wish he had had Tolkien’s habit of endless revision.

* * *

Speaking of which, I just got the Father Christmas Letters. Here’s to paintings of winter.

November (6) Rain on the Unexamined Life

We are having damp weather. The rain tinkled in the spouts all night long, and low clouds hung over Columbus in the morning. The air was damp and foggy, like it is in the best places. When the day is damp enough, at twilight, you get a deepening weird blue before dark that’s good to be out in.

The melancholy rain has made a cheerful moss on all the trees. Columbus is at its best autumnal, and the autumn here is protracted. We still have many trees in color and a lot of green, though everywhere increasingly the Christmas trees are what’s entire. The walnuts and the locusts go very early, but the oaks are not the last, the sweetgums seem to be. And the maples, there are so many kinds of maples, all flame out over the weeks of October and November. The redwoods are quite gradual, and there’s a number of those chaps.

* * *

On my walk, because I can, because it’s right next door and on my way no matter where I’m going, really, I stopped at Half-Price Books to see if I was missing out on anything. They had this languid French singer singing to twangy music, and I found it oddly apt. I found nothing else though.

* * *

The wife of me seems to have nosed her way into her dream job: making pastries. They’re still trying her out, and she them, but it seems to be an ideal match. Fewer late nights for us, though, if she starts work at 6AM. We’ll see, but it’s food and the place likes her, not surprisingly.

A Companion

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One of the great things about re-reading C.S. Lewis, or reading anybody, is the companionship. The author’s reflections are shared as life goes by, and sometimes those thoughts coincide with what is happening to you. With C.S. Lewis, whom I tend to re-read more than others I guess, or rather listen to in the car, because he was a good writer and a good man, I get a lot of good things.

Take Camilla Denniston who loves weather and longs to be out on a cold and stormy night in the middle of the action. Lewis makes obvious Jane Studdock’s liking of Camilla, but his own he also demonstrates in the remarks she makes. One can’t help wishing he’d taken her for a major character and had her come into her title and inheritance. I love weather and so did Lewis, but this bit somehow adds more people to it. And it is good to have one more person now that the seasonal, unimaginative and tedious grumbling about winter begins to set in.

One of the things that was happening to me last Tuesday is that I was reflecting on an episode at the dentist’s earlier. They had scheduled us for 10:30 AM and had admitted us at 11:30 AM. I’m not the kind of chap who sends stuff back at restaurants and I guess I’m still not old enough (Lewis again!) to argue about items on a bill. But having us wait an hour? I can understand having to wait, I don’t mind waiting in the dingy lobby because the waiting room is full, but one hour is a long wait. They overscheduled a bunch of cleanings. Apparently all they do Tuesday is as many cleanings as possible.

So I made sure they knew I wasn’t down with waiting an hour, and to Katrina’s satisfaction because she was there: which means it was done rightly. I expressed disapproval to all four of the people I talked to for a cleaning (yeah, why four?). There are dentists offices up and down High street all the way, and waiting an hour is not something I’ve done at a dentist’s office before, so I can switch. After the last apology they offered me, I just pointed out that it would be good for their business if I didn’t have to wait so long.

I afterward proceeded to wonder about it all day: had I been too harsh? But then in my book Dimble had this encounter with Mark Studdock where neither understand the other but Dimble is left stewing over whether he’d behaved properly, when he had. That came at the right moment that day. Dimble’s one of the good guys, I’m one of the good guys, dentists are practically the N.I.C.E. all over again, everything is fine. Precisely because it was not someone seeking to reassure me, it worked.

Good old Lewis. I love his books tremendously and wish there were far more. There are so many things right about them. He was obviously a good companion.

The Body

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It is by the body that we come into contact with Nature, with our fellow-men, with all their revelations to us. It is through the body that we receive all the lessons of passion, of suffering, of love, of beauty, of science. It is through the body that we are both trained outward from ourselves and driven inwards into our deepest selves to find God. There is glory and might in this vital evanescence, this slow glacier-like flow of clothing and revealing matter, this ever uptossed rainbow of tangible humanity. It is no less of God’s making than the spirit that is clothed therein.

-George Macdonald

That Hideous Strength

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That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, #3)That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
I think the reason this book fails in the end is that the active agency producing the result is too diffused. You can say somewhat precisely that the ending is achieved by the concerted work of a company. But you can say more precisely that the ending is achieved by a peripheral character, that arises like a deus ex machina to deliver our two protagonists from their plight.

Lewis was good at making Out of the Silent Planet work without a climactic confrontation. His character is passive, but his story is complete: he survives, he grows, his choices have a direct bearing on the outcome. In Perelandra, Lewis has a quest of sorts, an epic battle, and then ends the story perfectly, having set everything up from the beginning. Those two stories have plots that feed into their conclusions. The problem in That Hideous Strength is that our main characters don’t themselves bring about the outcome. I don’t think the plot is coherent in that it reaches beyond our two main characters and in the end depends on a third. It is a coherent plot in the sense of ideas and events, but isn’t the outworking of the character’s choices alone, and that I think scatters the ending.

Still, it is a good book, with a lot to think about, a lot of interesting things imagined for us, a lot of good characters playing out their beliefs and ideas, and excellently imagined scenes and situations. It is an ingenious ending, even if it isn’t plugged into the rest of the novel the way it should be. I read and re-read it because there is always something to notice. I don’t know at what point one of his books can be exhausted (I think I’m at 10 readings), but with judicious intervals, these planet stories not only entertain, but provoke thought and reward the attention you give them.

What else they do, as most people know, is help you understand his non-fiction writings by embodying ideas in characters who not only explain their views in dialogue, but play them out in imagined situations. In this book, mainly, and in the whole series as well, the ideas in The Abolition of Man.

The Influence of the Most Venerable and Learned Jonathan Edwards

My goal is to be a teacher. I want to teach in the context of the church more than the academy, but for the church in any context. I have, alas, no pastoral vocation. My desire is to get a better grasp of the material and discipline of church history.

One of the things Christians in my circles need is greater exposure to Christians who are not like them–a sympathetic view of the differences while demonstrating the underlying commonalities. In Reformed circles every single last everything any puritan ever wrote is being published and purchased and even read. Yes, read, and by not a few. That’s because somebody has shown them there is profit there and has taught them how to understand these crusty and difficult people as human beings and fellow Christians. My belief is that we would benefit, not from departing from that, but adding to it a similar–not as obsessive, perhaps–interest in other periods of history.

I find the early church intriguing because of the influence of classical thought. I’m fascinated by figures like Justin Martyr, Clement and Origen, Augustine and Ambrose, Jerome and Gregory Nazianzen because of the way they took classical learning and used it for Christian purposes, they way they wrestled with it also, ambivalent. I want to study what happened, how it shaped Christianity, how they discriminated in what they took, what they did and did not understand about what they were doing.

I’m also intrigued by the pagan reaction with Porphyry, Iamblichus and Julian the Apostate, because it represents something similar, if inverted: pagan antiquity adopting Christian ideals in spite of itself. What was in the air in the centuries of the great prophets of ancient Israel that also stirred up the great philosophers of antiquity and started something that would meet in the church, of all places, those first five hundred years?

I’d be interested in studying the remains of pagan antiquity surviving in a Christian context. Texts like Beowulf, where the two elements come together fascinate me, but as much as I enjoy literature, I want to study church history so I can be more involved directly in the work of the church. I find the world of the Sagas interesting for the same reason.

Any period of church history is interesting, of course, but one has to specialize. I’ve studied early American Fundamentalism (Bryan, Sunday and Machen), I’ve studied Edwards. I’ve done a lot of reading on medieval mysticism and a little Quietism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Besides that I’ve done extensive reading in Augustine and the early church. I’ve done work on Bernard of Clairvaux as well and some Aquinas. I want to go on consolidating my grasp on the whole, but with a careful study of the details. I admire historians like Henry Chadwick and Christopher Dawson for that: they have digested the details, but deal wonderfully with the broader view. I would like to, on the scale of my lesser talents, work similarly: digest the details and make connections, working my tenuous spider web of understood history into different corners, but hoping to spin a web dense enough in the early church corner so that I can be a proper spider.

Eliot on Blake

Blake’s poetry has the unpleasantness of great poetry.

He approached everything with a mind unclouded by current opinions. . . . This makes him terrifying.

What his genius required, and what it sadly lacked, was a framework of accepted and traditional ideas which would have prevented him from indulging in a philosophy of his own, and concentrated his attention upon the problems of the poet.

The concentration resulting from a framework of mythology and theology and philosophy is one of the reasons why Dante is a classic, and Blake only a poet of genius.

- T.S. Eliot 

Eliot figured it out. Concentrated his attention upon the problems of the poet.

Lesson: know your thing.

A Considerable Speck

(Microscopic)

A speck that would have been beneath my sight
On any but a paper sheet so white
Set off across what I had written there.
And I had idly poised my pen in air
To stop it with a period of ink
When something strange about it made me think,
This was no dust speck by my breathing blown,
But unmistakably a living mite
With inclinations it could call its own.
It paused as with suspicion of my pen,
And then came racing wildly on again
To where my manuscript was not yet dry;
Then paused again and either drank or smelt–
With loathing, for again it turned to fly.
Plainly with an intelligence I dealt.
It seemed too tiny to have room for feet,
Yet must have had a set of them complete
To express how much it didn’t want to die.
It ran with terror and with cunning crept.
It faltered: I could see it hesitate;
Then in the middle of the open sheet
Cower down in desperation to accept
Whatever I accorded it of fate.
I have none of the tenderer-than-thou
Collectivistic regimenting love
With which the modern world is being swept.
But this poor microscopic item now!
Since it was nothing I knew evil of
I let it lie there till I hope it slept.

I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.

-Robert Frost

Late October in Ohio

A morose wind blows low grey clouds and spray and leaves. The wet sidewalks have the twigs of autumn, the sinuous wands from the walnuts with a gallant leaf sprouted from the tip–like a yellow feather; the bumpy-green Osage oranges and rotting black walnuts have rolled to the edge of the path, the countless acorns accumulate in the cracks in various stages of disrepair.

The cold rain on the fresh-fallen leaves makes them fragrant, as if the world were making tea–a sylvan tea. Bluebirds with harsh cries leave the lawn for the lower branches, then climb out of the foliage to the bare upper branches where already it is winter. The geese are back, and the coats of deer are grey and shaggy.

The maples are still in their glory: black boughs, bright leaves, and under them each a strewn carpet of tumbled splendor. Bright the pines too, having molted, and the boles of trees are all moss; in the shallow hollows of the lawns mushrooms arise in little companies, bent on evil.

The rain pauses, the clouds rush higher, then darken in the southwest and loom, making the dark puddles tremble. I have noticed how the darkness keeps coming earlier. At this rate, next June should give us uninterrupted darkness.

* * *
I read Tolkien as I go about, walking on my breaks. I read Howe at night and TS Eliot’s letters in bed. We keep the windows open and add a woolen blanket. We listen to the ticking of the baseboard heater, and to the diminishing sounds of crickets outside. It hasn’t frozen yet.

Time Like and Ever Flowing Stream

My attitude toward NIU has been: who cares? Apparently Albrecht Mohler. Interesting. I think it is ingenious of the boys now running NIU to come up with this solution. Where will they go from here? And what Boyce College will do with the new stuff will be interesting too. It does seem to me a good way to help the students who’ve stuck with the NIU.

* * *
You think about the past. I’ve been going over the papers I wrote during my ThM at Central and am kind of astonished at the things I was able to pursue. A conversation several months ago with a former teacher there included this interesting comment: At Central there was more intellectual tolerance and diversity of opinion than at his present location. When I mentioned that to Central’s former dean, he was surprised too.

Another surprise I had in applying to SBTS: you gotta agree not to drink. I don’t, but it surprises me that’s still on the cards. No wonder they’re such avid coffee roasters.

* * *
And I was with my parents for almost a week. Talk about living in the past! They still hold to what they began with as fundamentalist missionaries lo these more than forty years ago, with puritan readings thrown in and considered, but assimilated in a compatible, not really reformed, way. They have embodied and achieved the ideals they were presented with: simple hermeneutics, being led, everything. You know what church-historical wondering they’re doing? If the sort of Christianity they’ve been a part of will remain: undenominational fundamentalism.

* * *
I think I’ve done most of my SBTS application. Will finish most of WTS by going to the post office. Then, on to the OSU. Kind of hard to find a paper for them, since most of the ones I wrote are theological rather than historical. I was surprised by that too–though I don’t know why.

The OSU

So I was having a conversation with a guy in church who teaches OT stuff at OSU. He thinks I should apply because the history program there is a good one and more likely to get me a job afterward. It wasn’t really part of my plan to waste my money and my references’ time applying to competitive programs since I really don’t think I have a chance, but even after I talked to him about my GRE he thinks I should. He oversees PhD students in his own area, so I think he may be considered somewhat reliable in this.

It has it’s advantages: we wouldn’t have to move. We have a really good church here. Living in Columbus is cheaper than for example Philadelphia.

One of the advantages he talked about was getting a job at a seminary if I got a history degree in something medieval. I was told at Louisville is that there aren’t evangelical medieval scholars. He thinks with a seminary and theology background, and then a history degree from OSU, I would be an attractive commodity for a seminary. I’ve never operated on such a commercial assumption, but maybe it can be done in good conscience.

One thing I have figured out about myself, looking back on how I make these decision and have in the past: I make the decision by finding out what a figure of authority expects, and then doing what is expected. I don’t think I chose the outcome as much as I chose the figure. That’s why I went to BIO, then to Northland, then to Central.

Of course, one can’t say any of one’s operations are entirely straightforward always. Sometimes they may be. In this case, it may be that I chose the figure for the outcome, but there are still other and responsible criteria. Anyway, I believe at this point applying also to OSU is expected of me.

Things I’d rather be writing about

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Why do seminaries keep asking me to describe my spiritual growth? I remember one year at Central I just put that I had none.

Talk to my pastor. I think I’m going to give the Catholic schools more of a look because they don’t ask me to describe my spiritual growth.

What are you supposed to say?

Yes, my spiritual life is coming along fine, I’m so glad you asked right about now and not, say, three months ago when it was not the word ‘growth’ I’d have used. Some days, well, I’m dashed if I don’t seem to not even do my devotions, but I’m happy to report that is mostly on Saturdays and I feel Sunday makes up for it, specially if I help with the youth. I really can’t say that I like Christianity more than I did two weeks ago at this point, but I honestly don’t feel like being a mormon. Probably I have a ‘greater heart for missions’ now than a month ago. I’m a lot fonder of . . . hymns than I was a week ago . . . and I do feel there’s a lot more humility now definitely. Especially humility. I’ve grown a lot in that, actually. The Lord is so good. I do not deserve to be as humble as I presently am. THANK YOU JESUS FOR ALL THE HUMILITY YOU HAVE SO FREELY POURED OUT ON ME RECENTLY! Also, having discovered christian Rap, my life is super blessed because I meditate on angry Scriptural doggerel more than I would have otherwise and still enjoy singing hymns when they come up in church. So . . . yeah, I’m growing probably enough to be in a seminary.

* * *
Speaking of getting ebola, I think we’re flying through Dallas to get to McAllen. Great time for that. One week from now. Flying. Through Dallas. I don’t know how long it takes to develop full blown ebola after you’ve been in the Dallas airport, but it is probably a lot faster than my spiritual growth.

* * *
I look forward to seeing McAllen Texas. I don’t know if they even have K-Mart there still, but there I bought all my legos when I was a kid. I did grow in legos till I had quite a few. We used to get the space ship ones and the medieval ones and not the contemporary ones. When I was a kid, they only had three kinds of flavor: past, present and future. Not like now.

Another thing I liked about Edinburg Texas was their macadam roads for roller-skating on, as well as the smoothness of shuffle-board courts. When I was a kid I would race around on roller skates for hours. Then I’d do a bike for hours. Then I’d read until we were allowed to watch TV. Where we stayed at in Texas they had color TV. My stupid brother would pick as his program (we could each pick one) Mr. Rogers neighborhood. I don’t remember what I picked, but it would never have had puppets or singing.

And we’d always watch the news with Dan Rather. And football sometimes, but I didn’t know the rules.

* * *
I used to have the four-wheel roller skates, you know, not these in-line deals. I would wear out the wheels and not the pokey brake thing. The front left wheel on the right foot would get worn down to nothing. It makes sense. I’d drag a foot to slow down and that was the most exposed. Always disdained the pokey brake thing. Didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the front, but it did serve nicely when you were going backwards.

They still sell them, but come to think about it, I don’t see people skating with any kind of skate here in Columbus. They bike or they run.

* * *
I need to grow in the accordion is what. I haven’t figured it into my schedule, what with working on applications in the odd corners of time life throws one’s way. This moment, of course, is brought to you by being fed up and having had too much coffee late in the day. It may also have to do with the potato salad with hot sauce I was eating. Probably it’s just an annoying question though.

So how would you describe your spiritual growth?

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