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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: Being Interviewed on Blogging; AAR Interviews; Jess and the Product of Theology 
27th-Oct-2008 10:14 pm
A Whole World Out There
Kind of a crummy-feeling day, with a cold coming to visit or somesuch. Felt like a wrung-out washcloth all day.

But I had a bit of interesting fun in being interviewed by a senior Journalism major doing work in what I think she called "literary journalism" (referring more to style than subject) and who had found me as part of a major feature-length piece she was working on about people who keep blogs and why they do so. It was a curious piece of happenstance for me, in that I had just recently looked at some of the resources I used on my first webpage, back in the ancient internet days of 1995, I think. It was before I had internet access through my personal computer, and had to use the school computers at Notre Dame for internet access and email, and so my first pages, later re-uploaded to my AOL account, were really nothing much more than "bookmarks" lists of links I found interesting. Back in these very early days of net usage, I had tripped across the page of a CalTech grad student named Eve Andersson, (archived here) who had a quirky, fun internet presence, getting herself named an Internet Goddess. Seeing a link I'd had to her page, I glanced to see if she still had such a presence, but now she's a more serious, restrained computer professional doing her work. But an article that mentioned her original page (and the archived 1995 Washington Post article describing her foray in pre-blogging terms and perspective) reminded me of something I hadn't quite thought of: that her early page, particularly her occasional literary accounts of interesting moments of her life, were one of the earliest instances of a blog.

I had forgotten that it was off of that occasional format of hers that I had started making available in 1997 "public letters" of particular events in my life, essentially my pre-LiveJournal weblog. This was in the News section of my AOL homepage, due to be scrapped as an entire AOL resource at the end of this month. I started by blogging, I realized, not with LiveJournal, but with the first Chrysogonus Fest in July of 1997: an acoustic rock concert in the hermitage of a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani.

So that ended up being a bit fun for Rachelle, the student doing this article, to find someone who could actually relate their blogging back the Stone Age of the internet, now so lost to history. For me, blogging was less about public communication than easy access, an outgrowth of my own private journaling, which had migrated from spiral notebooks in college to my non-internet LCIII Macintosh at Notre Dame, and the occasional large "public letter" I would write up about what I was doing and send out to a number of friends with whom I kept in touch. Putting an account of some adventure, complete with pictures, onto the internet seemed easier than lugging photo albums around and telling an increasingly weary tale to friends or family who wanted to know what I did in Ireland, or at Gethsemani, or in Nashville, or whatever. That anyone else in the world would find it worth bothering with didn't really cross my mind.

The job interviews are starting to all come together for the AAR meeting in Chicago this coming weekend. That's making it all that more concrete, and making me all the more curious about these places, programs and people with whom my life might shortly be intersecting. One small job in a world of people working jobs, but still such an epic thing for my own story. So I'm all the more curious about what these universities and colleges are like.

Another piece of fun was getting together the other day with Jessica, who had been a student of mine in my first semester of teaching Introduction To Theology during her first semester at Marquette. It was an amazing thing to be able to see at that time, not really knowing that such a thing was possible, but to see that she had The Gift, and that she could go the full distance in Theology or Philosophy – that she just had the natural talent for the reflective sciences. Maybe that's what was happening to Albert Resis, my Soviet History professor, who started talking to me about a doctorate my sophomore year. I don't know what that was like for him, but for me, as a teacher, it was a thrilling thing to see and experience: a student who could equal or beat me in going the distance in the field. Fabulous! So Barnes started talking to me about her the other day, as he has her now, and he could see the same thing, and was trying to remember if this was the girl that I said I'd be lateraling over to him for his required-for-majors Theology of the Early Church course.

She and I had been meaning to catch up for a while now, and had been playing tag for a few weeks, but now she also needed to talk to me about a recommendation for a Bioethics internship she was looking at, and so we needed to get together just to talk Bioethics in general, and programs of, and plans for, graduate study. She had actually come to Marquette to get into their outstanding Biomeds programs before I threw her the curveball of how cool Theology could be. Bioethics was a point where she could indulge that other interest, as well. And so we sat over at the Brew and talked what it was that made Theology or Philosophy "practical," which is frequently the objection people throw at such studies. And it's true: as fields, they don't seem to produce products one can sell. But it seemed to me that the trick is that everyone has theologies and philosophies, whether or not they ever really thought about them: they just pick them up from what their current culture tells them. So everyone deals with theology and philosophy, even if they think theirs is an anti-theology or anti-philosophy. The truth is that that just makes most people suckers for flawed and underdeveloped theologies and philosophies, no matter how well-educated they are in other fields. These are the fundamental sciences: the ones from which or against which all others take their interpretive stances. The products of Theology and Philosophy, of good ones and of bad ones, are civilizations....
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