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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal/Theological Notebook: Scattered; Trinity for Intro; Sci-Fi Action Dreams; Jessica Watson 
20th-Nov-2009 11:17 pm
Masaccio's Holy Trinity
I've been kind of scattered this week, I suppose. I haven't been able to concentrate very easily, other than on going over my preps for teaching and re-reading the relevant material. I got a bit bogged down in some grading because many my students seemed to have gotten flighty while I was in Canada and decided to start interpreting their writing assignments as asking them solely about their personal thoughts on a subject and to ignore the relevant reading, and so that resulted in a lot of comment-writing of a sort I hadn't expected this late in the semester.

We are peaking in the course right now, with respect to my course intentions, as we are doing our most sustained examination of the Christian understanding of God. After they've gotten so much background data from Jewish and Christian scriptures, and a sizable variety of selections of later Christian theology and spirituality, now that we are (chronologically) in the Middle Ages, I figure they are ready for some sustained exploration of the Trinity. So, for my Introduction To Theology students, that means two days to read and discuss C.S. Lewis's Beyond Personality, or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity, which is still even chronologically appropriate as Lewis's text is a masterful cribbing and 20th century restatement of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on the Trinity. Much of that work is actually given over to a discussion of spirituality, as the idea of God being three eternal Persons in perfect Relationship – hence "God is Love" – is at the core of Christian understanding of humanity and the universe, as well. Then we move on to the experiential perspective on the Trinity with a selection from Julian of Norwich's Showings or Revelations of Divine Love, to be followed with an art history angle of examination on the Trinity, focused largely on Masaccio's fresco of the Trinity in Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

I don't know that it has anything to do with feeling scattered, but I've had the most astonishing run of very vivid dreams for several nights running, after what I suppose are months of not usually remembering much or being struck by much in my dreams. I'm back to having tons of action-adventure movie dreams, with one unlikely scenario after another taking me through post-apocalyptic struggle for survival, taking on the rogue soldiers holding me and several others hostage, rewiring common household appliances into sci-fi weapons in order to stop a superhuman threat bearing down on me and my people (think the original Star Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before," with Mike turning pitchers of lemonade and toasters into molecular singularity bombs), and going up against a vampire-like cult of cultural elites bent on economic and world domination (Scientology meets the World Bank, I suppose). On Monday, I was on such an adrenaline rush upon waking up (about to rush a group of three during the hostage crisis dream) that I don't think the energy faded until about the time I was done with both my classes. If I was someone who just watched movies like this all the time, I could understand it, but there you go. Keeps me laughing, just to think of it.

Had some talk with Jessica the other night at Starbucks, hearing the latest on the coming-together of the wedding plans for January and talking some about graduate school. She wants to follow up on that in some more detail, as she is sketching out what seems to be to be a personally-broadening and sensible plan to do a Master's degree in Philosophy and then to do a doctorate in Theology. Since she and Nathan together require a VA hospital for him, as he's been assigned to the VA as an engineer for the Army, and a significant graduate program for her, Marquette and Duke are current contenders for being where there are both.

I do know that one distraction I have quite enjoyed has been checking in on Jessica Watson's blog, as the Australian 16 year-old seeks to become the youngest person to ever do a non-stop solo circumnavigation of the world. In a way, as I am looking ahead to the next lesson for my students, her blog and website strike me as similar to Julian of Norwich's text in giving us an eyewitness account of a most extra-ordinary experience. There's a very good chance I will never become any better sailor than I am, having only once helped sail anything more complicated than a Sunfish, and all of that on Midwestern lakes. But I recognize the attraction. And to read the earnest account by this young woman who clearly loves everything that she's doing in her adventure: that's still a notable experience for me, despite being entirely vicarious. She's one month into an eight or nine-month journey, having made it from Sydney to just crossing the equator yesterday, and I am quietly enthralled to be watching, thanks to the modern communications miracles of satellite internet uplinks.
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