Just got in from dinner over at the famed Miss Katie's Diner with Barnes after hours and hours of theology. Good talk on my dissertation, on the impact on our lives of people suffering from severe mental retardation, and the theology we had heard today. Anthony Briggman's dissertation defense was this afternoon on "The Theology of the Holy Spirit According to Irenaeus of Lyons," which was entirely first-rate. That was an outgrowth of our fabulous seminar on the Holy Spirit From Second Temple Judaism to Augustine. So that was exciting to see one of my friends become "Doctor Briggman." That was followed by a further two-and-a-half hours of papers being read as a dry run for this weekend's annual meeting of the North American Patristics Society in Chicago. I didn't pay my dues this year, so I'll have to sneak in if I go down with Dan and Mike.
I had the most wonderful, long talk on the phone with Grace later last week. No prompting needed on my part, and no "yes" or "no" answers for questions. She talked about books she wanted to read from the library, birds, graduating from Daisy Scouts to being a Brownie, how long a year was and how the extra quarter-day in a year added up to leap year, and a bit about her current soccer and softball, among other subjects. Too cool. Haley was, as usual, uninterested in talking on the phone, but I heard from Leslie that Haley had been praised in her "report card" from her preschool as the only one in her class who already knew how to read. So that was kind of interesting. As I understand it, and as I think I've seen, she's shy about reading aloud, perhaps because in this – for all that she and Grace are taken for and act like "twins" – she is naturally her two years behind Grace in this skill. Grace is so flamboyant and excited about reading aloud that I wouldn't be surprised if Haley is shy about it until she can "catch up." Leslie also told me how increasingly fond Haley is of Sophie, who replaced her as "the baby," and who Haley therefore seemed more ambivalent about for a while, and so Leslie is sad in that respect to see Haley going off to kindergarten next year, as Sophie will miss her as a playmate, and likely be disappointed when both Haley and Grace return from school next year too tired to play with her right off the bat. We'll have to hope that that doesn't blunt any of the sweetness of Sophie's disposition.
A cool Friday evening spent talking and catching up with Erynn at Starbucks. As she has a strong interest in photography, I showed her my new camera, which had finally arrived that afternoon. (After the month's delay from Dell, they then emailed me to tell me it would be some more weeks before the camera would arrive. I then cancelled my order with them, repented of having anything to do with them just because they were the cheapest, and paid a bit extra to order it from Amazon, who had it in stock.) I hadn't yet taken a photograph with it, since over the years I've kind of developed this thing about baptizing a new camera with taking a particular intentional photograph to celebrate the moment. Erynn then accidentally took a photograph of my elbow before I could explain my little ritual or superstition to her. I panicked and immediately took a more "intended" picture of her that was rushed and pretty crummy, entirely failing to do her justice. So now I hope my camera isn't jinxed.
Got distracted the other night by a long bout with Dalí, after I got contacted by a mathematics professor from Boston College, who had read (and liked!) my paper on Dalí's The Sacrament of the Last Supper and who wanted to draw my attention to a detail I'd not mentioned, which is what appears to be a hidden dove composed out of other elements in the picture, and perched, as it were, on Jesus's left shoulder. In other words, a hidden Holy Spirit image. That left me boggled, once I managed to see it, and got me thinking about that paper some more, and some of the work I'd done on Dalí's Christian art. This lead into the previously-mentioned long mental bout with Dalí as I worked through a goodly portion of the massive volume Dalí: The Paintings that I picked up the other year. Dalí's persona and hucksterism can drive me bonkers after a while, but it was so all-encompassing that I've no choice but to wade through it. Some of the obscenity seems affected that way, too, in just a Madonna, attention-gathering way, but some of it seems more important than that, a fetishism worked into surrealism, but it's hard to sort it all out. So there I was juxtaposing the spirituality of his The Sacrament of the Last Supper with the contemporaneous drawing of Hitler Masturbating. Dalí had come back into the Catholic Church about five years earlier, but that didn't stop him from being very Dalí. Toward the end of this night working on him, though, I began to be overwhelmed by the extent to which I felt he was consciously identifying with Michelangelo, and maybe even casting himself as Michelangelo's heir in the 20th century, for however much people would see a disconnect between the 16th century Italian Renaissance artist and the 20th century Spanish Surrealist. More for me to do there, later.
Otherwise, it's been a pretty steady run of dissertating, getting a lot of stuff this last week that I didn't have in my outline but suddenly realized I needed. It's been quite pleasurable, actually. I had no idea how lethargic I was with that lung/throat infection dragging out off and on from January 'til April. These last few weeks I've felt like me again, with the extra surprise of having not realized I hadn't been feeling like me for all that time. I'm just desperate to get this chapter finished now so that I can turn my attention to my two little test cases for finishing the thing. It'll feel equally refreshing, I imagine, to stop writing these huge "macro"-perspective chapters and to get to something much more precise and focused.
Personal/Theological Notebook: Anthony Defends, NAPS Dry-Run, Barnes; Nieces; Erynn; Dalí; Dissrtatn
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