February 12th, 2012

"*That's* an idea!"

Personal/Theological Notebook: Cold; Classes; Nate; Music

A seriously cold night in New Orleans – almost down to freezing! I know, I know, as a northern Illinois native, that hardly seems excessive, but in pre-Katrina housing, that means no insulation in the house, along with 11 foot ceilings, and so New Orleans remains the coldest place I've ever lived, despite the fabulously mild winter we've been experiencing. Lots and lots of layers last night and extra blankets.

This is a grading weekend. Not much to say about that. Teaching a 4/4 load, it piles up very quickly, especially since I have three sections of my Catholicism course this semester, and so that means most everything comes at once. Overall, the level of conversation in those sections has been among the best of my courses, but now I'm having to try to especially zero in on those students who are trying to (or are effectively trying to) lie low in the corners. Been getting into the idea of God with them this week, and really trying to make the Jewish/Christian idea as clear and distinct for them as possible, particularly that (annoying quirks of English aside) God is not a god in the pagan sense. Trying to distinguish that idea of a Creator, outside or beyond the spacetime universe that is a finite artifice, and who lacks all context, origin, or environment – that always pushes to the limits of human imagination.

My Modern Christian Thought course continues to have great discussions, just woefully limited by the amount of material we need to cover in a mere semester. This week was the Anglo-Catholic Romantic experience, the Oxford Movement, John Henry Newman, and, over in Germany, the rise of the Catholic Tübingen School of scholars. I concentrated on Newman, then, for their primary source readings, where they had the option of reading either a long selection from An Essay on the Development of Doctrine or the text of his "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine." The discussion on the former went longer than I'd intended – time really runs away from us with this more advanced crew, who have lots they want to discuss about these texts – but the latter was sort of thematic folded into the former, anyway. I myself unleashed one corker, though, when I tripped over one of my own pet peeves, which is how often on TV I'll catch people saying "Calvary" instead of "cavalry," or vice versa. So as I was talking Newman's "Essay on the Development of Doctrine" with the students Thursday, I ended up saying:
"Remember, folks, that talking doctrinal development, it took us nearly 300 years to go from Calgary to Nicaea. ... Did I just say 'Calgary?!' Heh. Sorry; I don't even want to think what that might have left you thinking if I'd not caught it. So, three hundred years to go from Caval– Arg. Calval– Ah! Oh, just... GOLGOTHA!"
So they all had a good laugh at me with that. We're off in the direction of Hegel and Feuerbach this coming week, so I'm curious to see what these students will do with that.

On Tuesday, I got a bit of a surprise in an email. Nephew Nathan, who began reading at 2 3/4, now that he's all of 3 1/4 years old, has already figured out how to send me gag photos from his iPod entirely without help from his parents. So figure another two years or so before he's hacking into The New York Times to make the headlines funnier....

One of my Modern Christian Thought students, Michael, took me to dinner on Tuesday as his guest in the dining hall, where he really wanted to talk about music and touring more than Theology. (A Physics major, he's got a real talent for Theology, and thus is a Religious Studies minor.) But as the singer and a principal writer for the group Jones Unleashed, he had been curious about my autobiographical references (back when I introduced myself to the students) to the days with The Freeks at Notre Dame, or my later recording adventures in Nashville with The Renaissance Men. So we talked music production, touring, the business side of it all vs. the musical side of it, A&R issues, and the specific attempts of being a band doing spiritual music without going the purely biblical route of American Protestant "Christian Rock" in style. So we swapped CDs, and it was just good fun to step off the beaten path for a little bit. And all over a hot and spicy shrimp/pasta combo!

And more on the musical side. My filmmaker friend Anil has put together a production crew and company down here, and has expanded his current screenplay (since I last got a run-through in December) to a fabulously moving conclusion: the earlier conclusion was like being hit by a bomb; this one is more the deep and poignant beauty of carrying the weight of this world as it is. So he's hitting the stage now of starting to raise the funding for an indie feature, but he asked me (having possessed The Renaissance Men's Life and Other Impossibilities for a year) if I would contribute a song for the film's conclusion. I've not been writing music in the last few years as I became all about writing my dissertation and now turning my attention to writing articles and such, but I gave him demos for "Rain" and "The Right Dreams" this week, both of which he liked, and particularly flipped over the latter. So he's going to run them by the lead actor, who is going in with Anil on producing duties, and see what he thinks. Later, I sent him a rougher demo of the quieter "Summer's End," in case that mood might sit better with the end of the film. So, it's not something I am sparing much time or thought now on this, but it would be fun if something came of it. There's a good recording studio on campus (the benefit of being in the only Jesuit music school/music business program in the country), and I could get a good deal there, as I understand it, if I wanted to pull The Renaissance Men down to New Orleans to record a full version of a single.