Alex H. came over from campus the other night with some boxes, too, and we sat out on the porch and talked until two in the morning, ranging over how Loyola will finish up for him next year, to the theology of grace, to random talk about music. It was good to kick back and relax that way. I hadn't seen anyone socially, really, since Sarah had come over about two weeks ago the evening before she took off for her San Francisco internship, where we also cashed out on the porch for a few hours, after she had suitably charmed Dad after he came back for a walk. Somehow I can't remember much detail from that conversation, really, other than it being free-flowing and fun, and her laughing at the end about her un-lady-like sweating as we sat there. I talked with her a bit last night via text until I realized that she was texting while driving, which is the most hair-raising habit her generation possesses.
I bought my train ticket, but because I was still nailing down the exact details of my mover loading things up, it was just enough time that the price jumped nearly a hundred dollars. I could fly north for almost the same price now, but I've been wanting to make this train trip for a while, anyway. The "City of New Orleans" run between here and Chicago is scheduled at 20 hours or so: leaving here at 1:30pm and arriving in Chicago at 9am. I've driven down to Tennessee in the past, so I'm mostly curious to see the land *up* to Tennessee. The train gets into Memphis at 10pm, so it'll be dark then, but with the solstice just passing, I should have light up until we get into the Mississippi Delta region, which is sufficient for my interests. And then there's possible complications: my Dad's train home was delayed for hours because of the trees on the tracks due to the storming going on during his whole way through that area.
My brain is starting to rev up again. Once I'm done with the packing and the moving out, all I'll have to do "work"-wise is the research side of things. I've got two articles to work on for peer-reviewed publications, the book, and when Dad was down here I just busted out my notes from last summer on the sketch for the book on spiritual development that I wrote for Kevin last summer. (Fruits of our morphing ten-year conversation on the subject, now being taken in new directions by all the neuroscience he's adding to his psychological work.) I was really surprised to see how well those seemed to read to me, given that I wrote that stuff when I was pretty sick from an antibiotic that I turned out to be somewhat allergic to (we'd spent months thinking its effects were from the infection). Most of last summer until we got the antibiotic balance right the week before I met you guys in Arkansas is just a blur to me. I went over it with Alex when he was here the other night, and he was kind of jazzed to see the realistic complexity of an attempt to describe spiritual development that wasn't as linear as the models that are out there. Indeed, it's the very complexity and not-entirely-linear reality of that kind of development that makes me wonder exactly what "good" the book would offer. Most stuff I've seen on spiritual development seems to try to "sell" you something by taking you on the linear path from A to B. There are certainly higher forms of development in the Christian spiritual tradition (and some of that complexity and less-commercial non-linear-ness would come from dealing with and within the actual Christian spiritual tradition and not trying to water down spiritual reality into something more secular and politically-correct), and paths of progress that can be pointed out, but what I'm seeing at this point is almost more like a diagnostic tool, if you could write a popular version of something like that. It reminds me, in that sense, of some of what Kevin has told me about the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) over the years. So that's bubbling in the mix, too.
I've been hanging a bit with Anil the last two weeks, too, and had to laugh when he asked if I would being interested in becoming a guerrilla movie producer the other month, as he is trying to get his production company off the ground. He's an Indian immigrant, in NOLA for 20 years, who lost his businesses in Katrina, has had to drive a cab since, but for whom (in the long run) the disaster has become an odd kind of backwards personal blessing in that having his businesses and their security stripped away from him because it has given him the freedom to roll the dice and return to his original love: film. He'd been an assistant director under the "Spielberg of India" (who had predicted that Anil would be the first Indian director to win the Oscar) before coming to the U.S., but NOLA didn't have a film industry to speak of when he arrived, nor did he know the American approach enough to plug into one. The screenplays and ideas this guy is churning out now are enthralling (a real Hitchcock feel to them), and he's arranging things right now to try to build up to full features: starting with a local documentary this summer which can let him be seen as a director, then a small indie feature here of jury room drama based on the huge civil rights case we had here the other year – a police shooting of a man post-Katrina, which Anil happened to be the swing juror on – and then on to a full feature. He's been acting some, too, locally (has played with Morgan Freeman, Mark Wahlburg, and Russell Crowe), and has put together a full production company out of the regional film industry of crew who have gotten to know him and want to work with him; now he's just having to get the investment funding. But going guerrilla and doing something totally off my chosen career path would have had more appeal in my 20s (like working and touring with the Freeks for a year), whereas right now I'd like to settle in and get to work on what I've already begun. But it's been interesting to see all this coming together and to see him make it come together. (We had enormous conversation the other day about how to outfit a cab with cameras for the documentary.) He has also asked to use some of my music for soundtrack purposes, so that could be a bit of fun.
Watched a documentary called American Teen whose trailer I remember seeing in the summer of 2008 in our art house theatre (The Oriental) in Milwaukee before seeing The Dark Knight, and have had on my list to see ever since. Painful in a number of points, and it left me with a lot to ruminate on as to what the entire project attempts to do in following and documenting some Indiana teens through their senior year in high school. Some reviewers loved it, others found it suspect or contrived, or pointing out that the presence of cameras always necessarily creates an artificiality. But I think perhaps the most perceptive bit of criticism I've read accepted that it was an undirected (if not edited) documentary, but that it was a documentary of American teens who have grown up with the idea of "reality tv" and being in front of the camera all the time, and what's to be expected of those in front of such cameras, or at least "expected" according to the conventions of such so-called reality programming as they've grown up with. Anyway, so that served as an interesting piece of distraction.
An even better distraction has been Sophie, who has been having enormous conversations with me via FaceTime just about every other day. I've suddenly begun to fear for myself for my visit up there, as I think I'll be reduced to the status of "toy" for her, at least until the novelty wears off. My family would say that I was born with the Irish "gift o' the gab," so much so that I refused in Ireland to go near the Blarney Stone, explaining to my friends that not only was it (in my opinion) a horrible bit of tourist junk, but that my family would pay me money not to kiss the thing. But Sophie's capacity for chatter utterly overwhelms me. I suddenly realized the other day what it was that her way of relating to me was reminding me of: I'm Hobbes, and she's Calvin....