Saturday, February 26, 2005

Something squirrelly in higher education...

This is an actual catalog description of a course offered at Santa Fe Community College a few years ago. I scanned it and made it into a t-shirt. Enjoy! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Oh, yeah- I have a blog

I'm new at blogging, and I've already turned into one of those people that doesn't update their blog for long stretches of time...

It's been an extremely busy and event filled week, filled with conferences, projects, midterms, a sad event (our cat was killed) and a really good event (which I won't talk about on-line).

I'm very grateful that this is the last week before Spring Break. I'm writing a grant proposal this semester that will take up a good portion of my break time, but I have some other plans that will more than compensate for the stressful demands of school.

In other news, one of my cousins has decided to create a blog of his own. Brandon is in his senior year of high school and is busily applying for colleges (I'm hoping he comes to UF). Check out his blog of "angsty teenagerness", entitled Randomdysphoricmess.

Stay tuned for my next entry on another favorite cousin of mine, Denise. We will examine her life long obsession with the Pillsbury Doughboy in depth.

Monday, February 14, 2005

St. Valentine, a priest, and Ralph Wiggum walk into a bar...

Once again, I find myself in the UF computer lab between classes. Using a public computer on a university campus will quickly get you in touch with your inner Howard Hughes (the germ-phobic part, not the aviator/billionaire/seduce-every-starlet-in-sight parts). The mouse is always toasty warm from the previous user, the keyboard has a fine patina of skin sells and encrusted filth, and it's best to avoid touching the underside of the desk unless you're really desperate for some chewing gum. Perhaps I should just carry around some hand sanitizer and not think about it too much.

It's very difficult to segue from a germ-rant to a Valentine's day story unless you're in the third grade and live in constant fear of contracting "cooties." I will accomplish this transition by taking a moment to honor Ralph Wiggum, the delightfully dim Simpson's character featured in the classic Valentine's Day episode, "I Love Lisa." I choo-choo-choose you, Ralphy!

I will now move from Ralph Wiggum to an anecdote about a certain Anglican priest that I'll call "Rob." As a service to the church (by way of preserving the domestic tranquility of its clergy), I've gotten in the habit over the years of reminding Rob at the end of January that he needs to book a babysitter for Valentine's day a week or two ahead of time. Rob is a man of many gifts, but organization is not among them. He has particular difficulty recalling dates and appointments. In the case of Valentine's day, he remembers that there is one, and that it occurs somewhere in February. This confusion could partially be accounted for by all the movable feast and holy days he has to deal with as a priest. Those of us who know Rob are pretty sure that the real source of the problem is a flaming case of ADD. Like myself, Rob has the type of ADD that necessitates attaching mittens to snowsuits and forces mothers to explain why "it's not nice to color kitty with the magic marker" to bewildered eighteen year olds.

The first year of his marriage, Rob's "Oh, it's February- time for Valentine's day" alert elicited a faint flicker. He proudly arrived home with a bouquet of flowers for his lovely wife, "Sandra". It was only February fourth, of course, but Sandra bemusedly recieved the offering in the spirit it was intended. I am sure that the incident was just as endearing to her the next nine times this scene replayed itself over the ensuing decade. Rob, however, was not about to let the Uh-Oh pixie trick him an eleventh time.

Enlisting the aide of his trusty secretary, Rob managed to sail through February 4th with only a faint nagging feeling in his head, as if he'd left the stove on or forgotten one of his kids at the gas station. Rejoicing in his victory, Rob failed to notice that Sandra's manner was a touch cold at dinner, and only growing frostier with each bite of the ice cream served at desert. Thankfully, Sandra started crying before hypothermia set in, weeping bitterly that Rob had forgotten Valentine's day entirely that year. Apparently, there's something to be said for consistency if one has to do without accuracy. Needless to say, Rob quickly explained himself and everyone had a good laugh. He's gotten Valentine's day right every year sense, though he still waits until the night before to ask me to babysit.

P.S. Remember those nasty, chalky candy hearts with the messages on them? Now they're new and improved!

"You choo-choo-choose me?" Posted by Hello

Of Blogs and Puppies

I find that the excitement of having a new blog is very similar to that of having a new puppy, except that there are less dire consequences to neglecting the blog when the novelty wears off. Like puppies, blogs stop being quite as cute when they make little "messes", such as deleting the blog entry that I have been perfecting with my creative genius for the past half hour. Don't worry, blog. I still love you.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Henri Nouwen on Solitude and Community

Readings for Lent:

Henri Nouwen on the relationship between solitude and community, excerpted from Clowning in Rome.

Solitude as the source of a lasting sense of intimacy:

Solitude is the place where we can reach the profound bond that is deeper than the emergency bonds of fear and anger. Although fear and anger can indeed drive us together, they cannot give rise to a common witness. In solitude we can come to the realization that we are not driven together but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not as partners who can satisfy our deepest needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God’s all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that community is not a common ideology, but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed realize that community is not made but given.

Solitude, then, is not private time in contrast to time together, nor a time to restore our tired minds. Solitude is very different from a time-out from community life. Solitude is the ground from which community grows. When we pray alone, study, read, write or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we enter into a deeper intimacy with each other. It is a fallacy to think that we grow closer to each other only when we talk, play, or work together. Much growth certainly occurs in such human interactions, but these interactions derive their fruit from solitude, because in solitude our intimacy with each other is deepened. In solitude we discover each other in a way that physical presence makes difficult if not impossible. There we recognize a bond with each other that does not depend on words, gestures, or actions, a bond much deeper than our own efforts can create.

If we base our life together on our physical proximity, on our ability to spend time together, speak with each other, eat together, and worship together, community life quickly starts fluctuating according to moods, personal attractiveness, and mutual compatibility, and thus will become very demanding and tiring. Solitude is essential for community life because there we begin to discover a unity that is prior to all unifying actions. In solitude we become aware that we were together before we came together and that community life is not a creation of our will but an obedient response to the reality of our being united. Whenever we enter into solitude, we witness to a love that transcends our interpersonal communications and proclaims that we love each other because we have been loved first (1Jn 4:19). Solitude keeps us in touch with the sustaining love from which community draws its strength. It sets us free from the compulsions of fear and anger and allows us to be in the midst of an anxious and violent world as a sign of hope and source of courage. In short, solitude creates that free community that makes bystanders say, “See how they love each other.”

I am deeply convinced that gentleness, tenderness, peacefulness, and the inner freedom to move closer to one another, or to withdraw from one another, are nurtured in solitude. Without solitude we begin to cling to each other; we begin to worry about what we think and feel about each other; we quickly become suspicious of one another or irritated with each other; and we begin, often in unconscious ways, to scrutinize each other with a tiring hypersensitivity. Without solitude shallow conflicts easily grow deep and cause painful wounds. Then “talking things out” can become a burdensome obligation and daily life becomes so self-conscious that long-term living together is virtually impossible. Without solitude we will always suffer from a gnawing question about more or less: “Does he love me more than she does? Is our love today less than it was yesterday?” These questions easily lead to divisions, tensions, apprehensions, and mutual irritability. Without solitude communities quickly become cliques.

…Solitude, thus, is essential to community life because it liberates us from the power of fear and anger and offers a sense of intimacy that transcends the emergencies of our present-day world. It offers hope by making people say with a new amazement: “See how they love one another.”

In many, if not most, religious communities prayer has lost its central place, not only because of changing conditions in our milieu, but also because God himself has become a very dubious partner, someone with whom you have to stay friends to avoid problems, but whose presence you hardly enjoy…

…It is in the context of this religious secularism that solitude receives its deepest meaning, because solitude is the place where God reveals himself as God-with-us, as the God who is our creator, redeemer, and sanctifier, as the God who is the source, the center and the purpose of our existence, as the God who wants to give himself to use with an unconditional, unlimited, and unrestrained love, and as the God who wants to be loved by us with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. Solitude indeed is the place of the great encounter, from which all other encounters derive their meaning. In solitude, we meet God. In solitude, we leave behind our many activities, concerns, and enter into the presence of our loving God, naked, vulnerable, open and receptive. And there we can see that he alone is God, that he alone is love, that he alone is care, that he alone is forgiveness. In solitude we indeed can call God our Father, the loving Father of all people.

I am not saying this to suggest that there is an easy solution to our ambivalent relationship with God. Solitude is not a solution. It is a direction. The direction is pointed to by the prophet Elijah, who did not find Yahweh in the mighty wind, the earthquake, the fire, but in the still small voice; this direction, too, is indicated by Jesus, who chose solitude as the place to be with his Father. Every time we enter into solitude we withdraw from our windy, earthquaking, fiery, lives and open ourselves to the great encounter. The first thing we often discover in solitude is our own restlessness, our drivenness and compulsiveness, our urge to act quickly, to make an impact, and to have influence; and often we find it very hard to withstand the temptation to return as quickly as possible to the world of “relevance.” But when we persevere with the help of a gentle discipline, we slowly come to hear the still, small voice and to feel the gentle breeze, and so come to know the Lord of our heart, soul and mind, the Lord who makes us see who we really are.

Here we touch the greatest gift of solitude. It is the gift of a new self, a new identity. Solitude leads us to a new intimacy with each other and makes us see our common task precisely because in solitude we discover our true nature, our true self, our true identity. That knowledge of who we really are allows us to live and work in community. As long as our life and work together are based on a false or distorted self-understanding, we are bound to become entangled in interpersonal conflict and to lose perspective on our common task.

This leads us to take another look at our fear and anger. While fear and anger are the most “natural” and most “obvious” reactions to a state of emergency, they have to be unmasked as expressions of our false selves. When we are trembling with fear or seething with anger, we have sold our soul to the world or to a false God. Fear and anger take our freedom away and make us victims of the powers that surround us. Fears, as well as anger, reveal how deeply our sense of worth has become dependant on our success in the world and on the opinions of others, and how we have become what we do or what others think of us.

In solitude, however, fear and anger can slowly be unmasked as manifestations of the false self, and in solitude they can lose their power in the embrace of God’s love. That is what St. John means when he says “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love” (1 Jn 4:18). In solitude we can gradually be led to the truth that we are who God made us to be. Therefore, solitude is a place of conversion. There we are converted from people who want to show each other what we have and what we can do into people who raise our open and empty hands to God in the recognition that all we are is a free gift from God. Thus, in solitude, we not only encounter God but also our true self. In fact, it is precisely in the light of God’s presence that we can see who we really are. To the degree that we know God and know ourselves through him, we come together not as a group of individuals huddling together out of fear or driven by a common anger, but as a community of people who can freely witness to the presence of God in the midst of this world.

When we see solitude as the place of the great encounter, the place where we know God as the loving Father and ourselves as the people able to respond fully to his love without fear and anger, then we know what solitude is indeed the place of prayer. Prayer is the breath of the Christian community. With a false view of God and a mistaken self-identity, prayer is not possible and community life slowly suffocates.

Yay, I have a blog!

Heather Lynn Posted by Hello