March 16th, 2010
|04:53 pm - Mottoes|
Oh, a theme:
Yale: Lux et Veritas
Union: Unitas, Veritas, Caritas
Clearly, I can't leave things simple!
|04:51 pm - Take The 1 Train|
I've sent word officially, and I'm going to Union next fall.
It was not an easy decision, at all. "If she'd been covered with glitter / Or even been covered with mold / It would have been wonderful" -- "she" of course being "any of the schools I got into". All of them were wonderful, but none exactly perfection either.
The big draw at Harvard was Mark. The big drawback at Union was money. I left my visit to Union convinced that money would be doable-- not easy, but doable. And if I were picking a single adviser, Mark would probably still be the guy; but I picked by program, and Union is the best for that. It'll be Morse busting my chops on old-school systematic theology, in a fairly traditional seminary setting, rather than Mark doing the queer knowledge on the margins of the university. To put it another way: Mark could have taught me almost anything I need to learn, but Harvard would never have given me a chance to teach most of it.
Really, the teaching situation is what gets me at Union. Their master's students look like the kind of church I want to serve and teach in. Their master's curriculum includes exactly the kinds of courses I would most want to teach. I will actually, in that setting, gain the skills I need for the career I want to build. There are definitely downsides to a constant teaching and work regime, and I don't downplay those. At the same time, as a seminary teacher . . . I would be constantly teaching and working. I don't see any future in theological education that doesn't involve hustling for funds, balancing multiple institutional belonging, and somehow doing first-rate work in the middle of that. There's nothing like practice to bring that reality about.
If that sounds like an attempt to make a virtue out of not having money, well, yes, it is that. I sort of feel like God called my bluff. All these years I said I didn't need money, just enough, and a chance to serve God and God's people. It looks like enough, with service, is what I'll have for the next few years. I'd rather have more, and I might still, depending on how the grant I wrote yesterday turns out.
And, you know, my energy around Union feels really positive. I want to go there, a lot. I want to be in New York. I don't want to leave my church communities here, but I know I'm leaving them in really good shape. I'll get to church shop in a very different environment and take it as a chance for discernment. I'll have, by the numbers, a more favorable dating pool pretty much however you slice it. I'll have all of New York City while I'm still young.
If anything, I have a continuing twinge about giving up Cambridge. I got my acceptance from Peterhouse the other day. They could have paid my way, and they might in fact have done it. I'd have found out in July. What I'd get there is global Anglicanism. What I wouldn't get is the city. My heart is with the city first.
So: Collegiate Gothic, a choice between styles of scarlet robes, and Riverside Park. That's the plan, starting in late August. I'll work here in my current job through the summer, probably save up some (!), and do my best to fight off what looks like a nasty case of senioritis.
I know some of y'all are in New York from time to time. Look me up when you are. We'll make it happen.
February 2nd, 2010
|10:24 am - I Got You Babe|
The heaviest burden: “What, if some day or night, a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh… must return to you—all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!’ If this thought were to gain possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “do you want this once more and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?”
(Friedrich Nietzsche - The Gay Science, s. 341)
December 25th, 2008
|01:40 pm - Yuletide by the fireside, and joyful memories there|
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.
I reread A Christmas Carol on the train from Boston to Atlanta. It's a much weirder book than I remembered, every note crystal clear, yet oddly dissonant, rushing frenetically between tones and moods. It's also, I think, basically pagan, which is to its credit. A more Christian version-- something by Dostoevsky rather than Dickens, say-- would be terrifying, mysterious, and totally wrong for the purpose. The first section, with Marley's ghost, is still the best. "I wear the chains I forged in life!"
It's been lovely family time, and more to come.
Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate it! Hanukkah's in full swing for some of those who don't; and everybody else, just stay away from the malls tomorrow and you'll be fine. ;-)
December 3rd, 2008
I've already posted this story to facebook, but it's so beautiful and strange I want to spread it everywhere.
It concerns a 42-year-old woman in Los Angeles with a perfect episodic memory. Every story in her life, every emotion she's ever felt, is locked perfectly in her mind, right down to its tiniest details.
Some of you will say "But that's Borges!" Which is right on point, of course. And Borges had certain things exactly right. But the whole story reads like a fiction, really. The details are just too elegant and suggestive for real life. Except that, well, that's how life actually is.
Jill Price (gah, the name itself is poetry) finds her memory a terrible burden, especially on her heart. She can't think about a scene from childhood without feeling every helpless emotion, just as it was. And so on.
So what does she do? She sits down at Google, in 2000 when the web was still so young, and searches on the single word "memory".
Let me pause on that! Do I need to spell out why that moment is a work of art?
Her search takes her to a memory researcher, who subjects her to extreme tests. Among other things, she could, in ten minutes, give twenty-three of the last twenty-four dates of Easter correctly. (Perfectly good arbitrary detail. Nice scene-setting.) And there's no reason for her to know the date of Easter, because she's Jewish. (Aaah! In fiction that would be insanely heavy-handed. Jewishness and uneraseable memory, wrapped up in a passion narrative? Too much! But it's real!)
It goes on. I'm only scratching the surface here, folks. You've got to read this story. There are several journalistic accounts readily searched-for, so if this is a hoax, its perpetrators have been thorough-- and elegant enough that I don't mind spreading it.
October 28th, 2008
|11:58 am - Graham Does Edwards|
Want a classic scare this week? Let Billy Graham dangle your spider self over the yawning pit of hell!
Graham made his name at an eight-week revival in Los Angeles in 1949. Toward the end of that revival, he pulled out Jonathan Edwards' barn-burner "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and preached big chunks of it to an exhausted, terrified audience of several thousand. Penitents showed up for days afterward in the middle of the night, seeking comfort from the resulting nightmares.
Yale's JE center has a fabulous online exhibit on this event, including audio of Graham preaching Edwards, news coverage, and a full transcript. Armchair theologians and fans of JE will find Graham's frequent changes to the original text fascinating and telling. Thrill-seekers will get a rare treat.
In all seriousness, anyone with an interest in American religious history should give the exhibit a look. The issues it raises are rich and tasty. Puritans and modern evangelicals are not the same; nor are their revivals; nor, even, their hellfire sermons ("Sinners" is quite restrained by twentieth-century standards). How much do the differences matter? Graham's invocation of Edwards gives us a great chance to say, a vivid glimpse of exemplary figures from each directly reading each other.
October 21st, 2008
|05:30 pm - Busy Busy World|
You know what the world really needs? Marxist sociological analysis, filtered through Durkheim, of what animals do what sorts of jobs in Richard Scarry books.
Ah, but that need has been filled! Eight years ago! The diagram at p. 222 is the key to the article.
Owls, for example, are pre-industrial. The author surmises that their faces reminded Scarry of woodcuts of German craftsmen.
. . . I'm both glad this exists, and sorry.
On the other hand, TV on the Radio? Totally awesome!
Current Music: Halfway Home - TV On The Radio
October 16th, 2008
|11:20 pm - Cententarian Voting Nun|
She's 106! Living in Rome! Voting for the first time since Eisenhower! I think I love her.
This post is here in part to taunt naamah, who is probably reading it at the library and can't hear the video. But mostly it's because this is just off-the-charts adorable!
September 19th, 2008
|10:33 pm - "Keep it holy" should be a cliche. Like "keep it clean", only with more resonance!|
So I go to the bookstore to pick up the texts for a class I'm taking on the interpretation of Genesis. Among our interpreters is Ramban. The set edition was a big, serviceable hardcover, but I suspected there would be lots of editions of a guy like Ramban with various agendas. I figured I'd look into a few other versions, just to see what was out there.
I get home, I google, I get lots of hits for Artscroll. They make pretty books, right? Definitely a particular viewpoint on Judaism there, but I figure I'll at least take a look.
Nope! Their website displays a cheerful little message saying that it's the sabbath, the store is closed, and you can view their catalog again at 8:09 pm Saturday night, New York time.
I don't suppose they'll lose many customers with that policy, come to that. What this shows me is that I'm used to thinking of websites as almost independent entities. I interact with them on a sort of quasi-personal basis, whereas this is really treating the website like a store and shutting it down. Of course the operators of Artscroll observe the sabbath, but it never would've occurred to me that their website would have to as well. I still sort of feel, irrationally, that it's the equivalent of ordering your cat not to mouse on the sabbath. It's not human! How could it obey the law?
Then again, my alma mater chooses its bulldog mascot in part on the dog's demonstrated dislike for the color red . . . .
August 16th, 2008
|02:19 pm - Separated at birth|
I'm just on Season 3 of The Wire now . . . I know, I know . . . but I noticed that Councilman Carcetti was really creeping me out, and not just because of the actually-slimy things he does. I think I get it now:
Makes me shiver just looking at them.