Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal/Theological Notebook: Moving Into 2012

Things have been low-key here as I take things easy and rest up. Some work and some play. The work has been interesting, really. I had to tweak my Catholicism course for the next semester, dropping what I've been using as my opening, "orienting" text, and moving back to a symposium article that I used for similar purposes in my Introduction To Theology course at Marquette. In discussing "Theology As Knowledge," it probably doesn't delve so deeply or explicitly into what theology is as did David Ford's Theology: A Very Brief Introduction, as it is concerned to get on to the question of the public role of theology. But I think I can fill that gap in while using the text of the symposium (between James Stoner, Stanley Hauerwas, Paul Griffiths and David Bentley Hart) to orient students to the particular concerns of our time in the flux between Modernity and Post-Modernity.

But the bulk of the work went into designing my new course, a course intended for Religious Studies majors and minors only, part of our historical survey sequence, on Modern Christian Thought. I'd sketched out some of the basics in my head in the last few months since Tim asked me to teach the course (my first majors' course, which I'm quite excited about), but I've been waiting for the break to have the time to fill in the details. The bulk of that work was to quickly skim through a lot of potential primary source readings, and to whittle those down to something realistically brief for the time allotted, but still representative of the great ideas, thinkers and texts with which I want the students to gain some familiarity. So the final list looks to be selections from:
John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration
Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary
Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
David Hume, Of Miracles
Immanuel Kant, What Is Enlightenment?
Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches To Its Cultured Despisers
John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine
John Henry Cardinal Newman, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Introduction to Lectures on the Philosophy of History
Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity
Pastor Aeternus
Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture
Lumen Gentium
Karl Rahner, S.J., Christology Within an Evolutionary View of the World
Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P., A Theology of Liberation
Wolfhart Pannenberg, Introduction to Systematic Theology
Wolfhart Pannenberg, God’s Presence in History
I'm really jazzed about this part. Some of these I've not looked at in years, and I was less-educated then: I think that this dive will be as fun a learning experience for me as I hope to make it for the students. Indeed, one of my intentions is to model for these more advanced students what it is live the life of an ongoing learner. So I'm heading into the library for Monday, and maybe Tuesday if necessary, in order to put the last texts together for the packet. A lot of these classic texts are available online, now, being in the public domain. But some others are not, and I still have a portion of my library in storage up in Milwaukee, so I need to be able to copy a few texts that I don't have currently in my possession. I'm hoping that Loyola's library isn't so basic as to not have something like a copy of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship on the shelves.

On the "play" side of the equation, there's been a few things to provide some fun distraction. I've been idly re-reading Jordan, which I feel guilty about, but there it is. I've watched some movies: saw the best reveal I've seen since The Sixth Sense in a small feature entitled Remember Me, enjoyed Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia, and finally saw Captain America: The First Avenger, which was great popcorn fare, although I kept grimacing when I saw things or heard things referenced that were anachronisms for World War II. Even a comic book movie deserves a consulting historian. Sarah came over one afternoon, and loaned me her family-favourite copy of the 1951 Alastair Sim film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which I'd never seen before, but which was well worth the wait.

A number of cool conversations have helped pass the time, too. Nephew Nathan got his own iPod Touch for Christmas, having been very taken with my iPhone and the ability to talk to his cousins (especially Sophie, who gave him the most time) through theirs. So I've had a few calls from him, which mostly amount to him exclaiming over seeing me (he's calling me "Mike Novak" the last few times) and then talking with Joe for a while, which is also good. I had one substantial video-chat with the nieces, mostly being Sophie, once it was determined that my big bandage didn't make me too scary to look at, and a series of charming texts from Grace on New Year's Eve, as the girls stayed up for the big moment. It was cool of her to include me in that.

My own New Year's was necessarily low-key. I hadn't been here last year, so I was surprised by the insane amount of fireworks being set off right around my house, much less whatever was going on down near the Quarter. Kevin and Frannie got a hold of me the day before, delighted to offer to fly me up to spend New Year's with them, which I had to turn down, of course, and explain to Kevin that this wasn't my preference but a temporary necessity. Thus also my earlier turning down of Emily's invitation to join her family at their Texas beach house. Sigh. Dan Lloyd had called some days earlier and we caught up, and I had a great long-delayed talk with Kate in Victoria, the first since she gave birth to Kenny. She had posted earlier on her Facebook page that,
"The primal instinctual maternal part of my brain is now completely dominant. Regret to say I can no longer recall names, phone numbers, or what day it is. It's only unnerving when I fight it. Otherwise, it's quite a pleasant way to be."
I had quoted this in a phone conversation with my Mom, quipping that this would then be the perfect time to [falsely] remind Kate that she owed me fifty bucks. Talking with Kate, I then repeated this story to her, telling it as a joke I had made to my Mom, only to have Kate prove herself accurate by asking with utter innocence, "I dooo?!" I then burst out laughing, went over the joke more slowly, until Kate saw that she had just reaffirmed the warm fuzzy status of her maternal brain and burst out laughing herself. Good times.

Tim and Minoo invited me over to their place on Thursday for an absolutely scrumptious dinner of salmon, baby potatoes, green beans almondine, dark chocolate, extremely elite chocolates requiring a guidebook, Turkish Delight, another nougoty Persian dessert whose name I failed to learn, and then, after finally retiring back into the living room, oranges. Tim and I laughed over how much she keeps trying to get me to eat more and more, all part of being a gracious hostess. Tim has a bit more resistance built up than I do, because no matter how often I insisted I was full, I kept finding myself eating just a little more somehow. Not that this was in any way unpleasant. I know we inevitably talked some about work, some about food, and some about Iranian politics, but once again, somehow in their presence four hours of nonstop conversation seemed to flow by in merest minutes. Also very good times. Michel, Julia, Madeline and Janie sent me a care package of some scrumptious high-quality frozen meats and desserts from Milwaukee, which got me to burst out laughing on the front porch once I understood what the elaborate cooler package meant. And I had a long chat with Sr. Liz (from whom, via Professor Wood at Marquette, I heard about my job back in 2010) today, catching up with her as she's recovering from hip surgery over the break. She seemed in good spirits, but was baffled to have experienced something like four days of amnesiac effect from the medication, and cannot remember her days in the hospital hardly at all, despite lots of functional work and conversations she apparently conducted, which sort of left her somewhere between laughing and aghast at anything she might have said while under the influence. So it was good to hear that she's healing well and strongly.

And thus I come to 2012, working on a book review for The Journal of the American Academy of Religion and enjoying both the fact that we've had several days of weather mild enough to make it to 70ºF during the day as well as the fact that this has kept my heating bill in check.

Two more things: For the "location" tag on my LiveJournal, I really cannot keep calling this place "New apt., New Orleans" any longer. I've been here nearly 18 months, after all. I've been trying for quite some time to come up with a name for my place, much in the way my last apartment in Milwaukee was dubbed "The Ledge" for the visual effect of its series of windows in the living room and dining area looking out over the campus and city. But for the life of me, I cannot come up with any name that sticks with me for my apartment in this great pile of a house that has been repainted a mellow yellow than "Butterlump." I confessed this aloud to Sarah the other week as she dropped me off after we spent the afternoon at CC's Coffeehouse on Jefferson, and I'm tired of trying to think of alternatives. So be it. And now January 1st, 2012 brings with it a piece of instant gratification: the premiere of the second series (what the Brits call a TV "season") of their fabulous modern-setting adaption of Arthur Conan Doyle on BBC One: Sherlock. Thanks to friends in Merrie England, I've got it to watch here, which I am now retiring to do!
Tags: books, class-catholicism, class-modern christian thought, family, friends-loyola era, friends-marquette era, friends-notre dame era, grace, movies/film/tv, nathaniel, new orleans, personal, teaching, theological notebook

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