I was given a welcome break Sunday night by Dan and Amy, who had me over for a tasty steak dinner and conversation into the wee hours. I hadn't seen anyone for social time since the day after Christmas, which sounds miserably lonely to me as I type it, but I know that I was just too busy to feel it. Plus, of course, there were occasional phone conversations with family – parents, siblings, and nieces – as well as a few phone calls touching base with Erynn, or spontaneous online conversations when I was caught checking my mail by Angie or by my old NIU History buddy Tom Near, who is now professor of evolutionary biology at Yale. I still owe Emily a big call, though: sorry, Em. Head in the clouds/books, and I figure you're asleep at dawn.
The danger of getting caught in perfectionism is a real one, as Professor Fahey has warned: there is a real desire to keep refining the work, and with a topic as broad as proposing a new structure for a theology of the Church, there is always more work to do. Judging what's finished enough to move on can be tough, especially because there are legitimate reasons to go over the work. Some historical research I was doing into the question of offices of leadership in the early Church (like when and how the tripartite set of offices of bishop, presbyter (priest) and deacon emerged) made me have to re-think everything I had assumed for years when I came across a study showing that these were not new and fresh creations of the Christian church (as scholarship has said for the last few centuries) but were in fact adaptations of a common tripartite office structure borrowed from the synagogues. (James Tunstead Burtchaell's From Synagogue to Church: Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities is a fascinating study not only on that original history, but also on how the argument about the earliest offices in the Church in the scholarship of the last few centuries has been really more a veiled argument about Protestant and Catholic ideas of office.)
So that's both exciting and head-spinning in scholarship: when you realize that part of what you've had in your head for years is wrong, and you have to tear it down and see what happens when you re-draw your map with the new information in it. (Or, I suppose, lie to yourself so that you don't have to change your ideas.) And then figure out what you may have to alter in your writing as a result. Mercifully, while I had to re-think quite a bit after that particular information came into my grasp, it didn't affect much of what I had written because other data had led me toward pretty much the same conclusions, even though I had earlier been missing some of that background data. Adventures in ideas indeed.
In the meantime, the quiet of night is giving way to dawn again, soon. The buses will start running again at 5am, and this extra quiet few hours in the city will fade. I think I'm going to miss writing at this time once I have to yank myself back into my teaching schedule on Wednesday.