esterday was one of those brilliant days where just about nothing went according to plan, and that the whole day was far more fabulous as a result. I went in to the University to pick up a book that a student had borrowed overnight and to let a student take a make-up exam. I was only expecting to be there for An hour before heading back to my house and neighborhood in order to run various errands or do some needed chores. Instead, I had students hang around the office for a total of about five hours of conversation. Cecelia, the fabulous student who saved me the other week when my airport shuttle failed to show, returned a book she needed to borrow for class and the proceeded to launch into an extended conversation on Thomas Merton, based off of the copy of Merton's famous "I have no idea where I'm going" prayer that I had taped to my door. Cecelia is one of those people that make teaching "nontraditional" students the joy that it is: passionate, interested, and bringing to a class so much more life experience. A 50-something mother of a high school student, she was a Managua-trained lawyer whose father was the pre-revolution Nicaraguan ambassador to the United Nations, making her childhood just about as traveled and cosmopolitan as I've ever heard of one being. Conversant in the Liberation Theology characteristic of her region and lifetime, she happens to be taking both of my courses this semester as she takes advantage of the tuition break that comes with her campus job to take an American Bachelor's degree, just for her own enrichment.
Okay. Started this entry in New Orleans; now on a train headed from the airport to downtown Atlanta. After around an hour and a half of conversation with Cecelia, my test-taking student Lauren talked with me for a out half an hour about things like some foreign study options she's considering. Then, a little later, I saw my student Chelsey, who is a junior Religious Studies major, outside my office looking at our board covered with descriptions of graduate programs. She and my British visiting student Helen are both thinking about grad work in Theological Ethics. She and I started talking programs and that morphed into three hours on that, music, and the (to me) unknown wonders of her work in the Mascot industry, as she works as the school mascot, a wolf whose name scandalously escapes me at the moment. Good times. Then at 9pm I had to excuse myself to grab a bite at the Union before I spoke to Compass, a student Catholic spirituality/fellowship group from 930-1030pm. That was built off of this coming Sunday's readings (the gospel reading being the story of Zaccaeus, and the first reading being a glorious passage from Wisdom that very much reminded me of the "hazelnut" reflection in chapter five of Julian of Norwich's Showings
or Revelations of Divine Love
), which have a gorgeous theme running through them of God completing work in us, no matter how long or unlikely that might seem at times. So I spoke some on how God's redemptive work in us can even make use our struggles with our particular sins as a way of increasing sympathies and perceptions in us, turning even our sins into vehicles of Christ's redemptive action in history ("O happy fault!" as the medievals put it), even though we might hate the burden of such ongoing struggles. It is harder for us to see with the "long view" of God how our prolonged struggle might lead to greater good in the long run, while we would prefer the immediate completion of grace. So that was a group of about 15 or 18 really cool and fun undergrads, with four of my Catholicism students among them.
All this after a night of strange dreams: strange for me meaning that real people were in them.
Okay. Now in my room at the Atlanta Hilton.
I had a strange echo of my aborted trip to England when I was 16 with Jeff Wingert, shot down by terrorists, but in the dream taking place at this age and headed to Alaska. So quite different, but definitely associated in my mind, in the way of dreams and their strange connections. Then, after drifting back to sleep, I woke up on a glorious vision of a memory in college from a weekend trip into the then North Park College, and seeing Ann Stahl's transformation from her normal pretty farmgirl self into her "Billy" mood, with high ponytail, wraparound-ish 1980s dark sunglasses, black Billy Idol t-shirt, black miniskirt, and black stiletto heels, all accompanied by the disbelieving stares of her classmates once she was recognized. I woke up kind of laughing at the memory of how much Ann enjoyed tweaking her classmates' expectations with that outfit, and realizing that that was another photograph that I really wish I had from undergraduate days.
The dreams came, I'm sure, from the way NIU has been haunting my memory since I started reading about the murder on campus. That sort of stunned Sunday -- I can barely remember anything of what I did the whole day --was augmented by finding in on of my unpacked "storage" boxes all the "lost" photographs from my undergraduate that I had been missing for years. They're still the palest shadow of the amount of photos I should
have taken, and most not having the bulk of my friends in them, but it's something I can add to my electronic back-up stockpile, at least. I also found the first journal of my relatively serious start to journalling, from the grim year (economically) after I graduated when I was doing my Theology pre-requisites prior to starting my Notre Dame Master's. So I re-read that with some interest, as well as going through the photographs, rediscovering some memories, especially watching the climax of David and Priscilla's courtship, leading up to their engagement in April. Like a glance I had taken a few months back at an old Notre Dame journal, I was most surprised to discover the mentioning of a girl or two I was interested in at the time, going out to dinner together and a few basic exploratory dates of that sort -- and having absolutely no memory of who the girl was at all, or at least having utterly forgotten their existence until I re-read the journal entry. I didn't think that was possible, but I suppose it's reflective of how little came from those particular meetings. Still, it was good to "re-feel" some positive memories from the time after the way the Keller murder has discolored some favorite memories associated with the park where the crime occurred.
So. Settling in for dinner and getting ready for interviews tomorrow. No luck so far finding any friends visiting here at the American Academy of Religion meeting. Crip Stephenson is presenting a paper tomorrow, so I should be able to catch him, and Lisa if she's here with him, as well as seeing my Doktorvater
, Father Fahey, at the Ecclesiological Investigations group, after I get back from seeing the "Dali: The Late Work"
exhibition which, in a great stroke of luck for me, is close by, since the AAR meeting just happened to be right here in the only city the exhibition will be seen. Some of these works haven't been exhibited since the 1950s, and the collection even features such foreign-held classics like the Christ of Saint John of the Cross
. No exhibition in my lifetime will probably let me see so much of the later Catholic works of Dali's that I've studied.