As a guy in the "intellectual sciences," I am actually very careful and even painstaking in determining what it is I actually think and believe about any given idea. On some things I spend more time and care than others, so there's a constant work of tending and shepherding my own mind in trying to avoid sloppy thinking, particularly in those areas I give less attention. Then there are some flaws that are just there, that I cannot seem to get rid of despite my best efforts.
One of these seems to be an Irish peasant belief in luck, which more amuses me than annoys me, that even though I know it's nonsense, my mind just jumps straight to certain assumptions. In particular, this belief is manifested in the negative idea that anything good "will have to be paid for." Given Ireland's history, it's perhaps not surprising that, for the Irish peasant, the old saying would actually be expressed "Every silver lining has its cloud."
So that's where I am tonight. I've felt absolutely crummy all day. I rallied up to talk with my class about Christian worship, comparing Justin Martyr's description of the Mass in his First Apology (I can't remember right here when exactly it was written, somewhere in the 155-165 AD range, I think) to the way Mass is celebrated today. I was actually surprised at how many students were present instead of having ducked out for early travel, our four-day Fall Break having begun. But that took all my energy after a night of poor sleep and strange dreams (swimming with whales, Gnarls Barkley singing "Crazy" from a whaling boat, and I'm not even going to tell you about the strange parts!), and ended with me almost staggering by the end of the second session.
This comes after some great moments with friends, punctuating the rest of my time that is consumed by lesson planning and grading. Friday saw the celebration of Bob Foster's passing his Doctoral Qualifying Exams. He had spent the week staying with Dan and Amy, so we gathered over there in the afternoon, before he would return to Michigan on Saturday. I was razzed a bit for gravitating to the "Mother's talk" around the kitchen table rather than the guys talking shop out in the living room, even by Pam Shellberg, who kept the students' side of the crowd from being exclusively male. Later, when everyone had settled into the kitchen, I was treated to a withering imitation of myself from Bob, who related a story to everyone that I didn't really remember. I kind of love it when I hear a story about myself that I don't know: of some episdode that failed to lodge in the faulty trap of memory.
Bob was relating our watching Grand Canyon the other year back in my apartment at the Abbottsford, where I insisted that he had to see this ensemble work of Lawrence Kasdan's. What I was only finding out now in the telling of the story was that Bob had been haunted for years by a learnéd allusion made to a scene of Danny Glover's in the film that had been made years earlier during his undergraduate by the leader of an intellectual crowd at his university to which Bob really wanted to belong, by a student who now regularly writes complicated books on postmodernism and that sort of thing. Apparently when that particular scene played – and here Bob gave the imitation of me that had everyone laughing – as Danny Glover intoned the apparently deeply-symbolic words, "I was never here... and this never happened.", I sat watching the screen, stroking my chin and nodding sagely, saying, "Ahh. Of course." And this, all the while unbeknownst to me, Bob sat next to me silently shrieking, "WHHHAAAAATTTT????!!!!!! WHAT IS IT???!!!!! WHAT DOES IT MEAN???!!!!!!" Myself, I have no recollection of the scene in any detail, or of what deep commentary about the postmodern situation it offers, but you can bet I'll be looking the next time I watch it. And trying to make a point of not stroking my chin and nodding sagely. So there was a certain amount of laughing at my and Bob's expense, but it was all good. We ended the night with another tension-filled, babbling-during-the-commercials of the second episode of this third season of Battlestar Galactica, which was especially a treat because Bob has been the isolated member of the fan circle, talking with us about episodes via email, but never being able to actually watch it live and in the same place as the rest of us.
Saturday had been a source of vague movie-watching plans with Barnes, to see this Clint Eastwood-directed WWII pic that was coming out, only to discover that it hadn't been released to Milwaukee yet. He was adamant in his desire to not see The Departed, which was the other thing on most of our lists', with my Dad just having given a pretty enthusiastic review of it to me. And since I was feeling a little punk that night, too, the guys – meaning in this case Mike Harris and Dan Lloyd – opted for a third idea, and came over to my place to "warm up" for Scorsese's gangster picture by watching The Third Man. This, of course, is one of the absolute all-time greats, and I hadn't seen it in maybe eight years, so that kept things very fresh for me, too, since only the Very Famous "Harry Lime-suddenly-revealed-in-the-light" and "'Cuckoo Clock' speech" scenes were pressed into my memory. The DVD of the restored version is a real treat, too, with the Graham Greene screen treatment being included, as well as radioland adaptations of both The Third Man and one of the Harry Lime "prequels" that became a popular radio show after the release of the movie, this included episode, "Voyage to Tangiers," I think it was called, being written by Orson Wells, too. So that was so visually entertaining that I am almost doubtful of going to see anything else with that as the "warm up."
Julie Riederer came over on Monday night to share a bottle of wine and talk, which is quality entertainment in that we have similar style of gabbing with colossal digressions, which we find enjoyable rather than annoying. I decided that as an entertainment option, I would put her to work this time, and get her to help me build my still-incomplete bookcase (which the guys had made fun of me for on Saturday, as I'd unpacked the pieces in August and had still not gotten around to putting together). This made conversation a bit rough at first, because we found that it was actually difficult for us to build and converse at the same time, which I think came as a shock to both of us. But as we got more into the rhythm of it, things flowed more easily, although of course that could have just been the Chianti. As she's starting to sort out her graduate school options, though, I was really struck by the "vocation" or "calling" language that was coming out for her interest in Psychology. She has more of a pure research bent than Kevin and Erik tend to display, and so her language is somewhat different than what I'm used to from the two of them and their adventures in the field. But it seems to me that language of "calling" or "vocation" is different than what most people feel toward their professions, and is a very great gift to have and to experience. That is, a lot of people have jobs, but it isn't on the level of calling, of that one thing that you have to do or all your life is incomplete without it. I've long known that teaching was that calling for me, although I have a hard time distinguishing "teaching" per se from the dual subject matter of Theology and History. To hear Jules talk about the field in that way gave me a different take on what her experience of the work is, and that still seems strong and striking to me through what is a fairly wine-clouded memory of the night.
With lots of fun talk with Erik last night over me proofreading a "Tell Us About Yourself" essay for him that he's having to write for his internship applications, I have had lots of good "friend time" the last few days. And that's why I'm sick now. That, and because I'm an Irish peasant.