Saturday, September 30, 2006

Amos Lee for free?!

So, I guess it's been a few days (weeks?) since I wrote a depressing and wordy blog... so I'm about due...

Really, I'm just going to try to keep this short and sweet. It's been a good past few days, although busy, and to give you a rundown of the highlights I will work backward. Just a few minutes ago, Yvana was searching for a constructive waste of time and decided to put in a counter on the blog. Now we can both fulfill our middle school dreams and really see how quantifiably unpopular we are!

Yesterday we (along with a whole host of other ICS'ers) attended the Symposium and Festschrift for George Vandervelde, emeritus professor of theology here at the Institute. A good time was had by all, with such big names as Mike Goheen and Al Wolters appearing on the panel. The conversation centered on George's interest in ecumenical dialog, especially with Roman Catholicism. Afterward, we were able to introduce the inaugural batch of ICS wine (Shiraz and Ruisseau Blanc)! It was received with muted enthusiasm, with much more enthusiasm directed at the lack of charge for consuming such wine. Junior members languished long into the night in discussion and tomfoolery, ingesting cheese, crackers, cornbread, and purloined wine with everyone packing it in around 2.

Lotta work this week, with a day of running stuck. Guided reading, beginning Ecclesiastical Latin, presentation on Monday the 1st for my Gadamer class.

But last Monday evening was a blast. Yvana and I, along with Jeff, Chris, and Janna, went down to the Drake Hotel to see Amos Lee in concert! Even more exciting, it was to be taped and broadcast on Sympatico/MSN! The only problem was that it was an exclusive event, meaning that riffraff like us weren't allowed because we weren't on the list. Although the males were immediately deterred and turned away in defeat, Janna and Yvana talked their (and our) way into the venue. Thankful and amazed, we enjoyed an intimate concert with fantastic music... and free domestics on tap. Afterward, we retreated to Jeff's and had cake in celebration. Chris and I went to look for a beer store, but none were open. So we spent zero dollars on the whole evening of fun, food and fellowship.
Enough fun for now. Back to the grinding stone.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why do I obey God? Reflections on Simone Weil

My reading of Simone Weil in the past couple weeks has deeply renewed my commitment to take the sometimes contradictory acts of "living" and "thinking" together. Because of this renewed commitment, and because of the impact on my "life" that her "thought" has had, I wanted to share with all of you what struck me today in reading Simone Weil's Waiting for God. Here is a slice of my journal:

"As answer to a question that has troubled me for nearly two decades, and has never been satisfactorily approached, Weil makes this statement: "If it were conceivable that one might be damned by obeying God and saved by disobeying him, I would nonetheless obey him." This paradox approaches my longtime dilemma and dissatisfaction with the understanding of Christianity and loving God as some kind of cosmic/eternal vending machine that produces our eventual eternal dwelling place in Heaven. The need for comfort above all else that this implies leads us also to desire that comfort now, at the expense of the love of others as love of God. Were we to truly love God--as its own end--we are freed from the self-pursuit that "staying out of hell" implies and are freed to love extravagantly in this world as well. Never have I seen such consistency of thought as she implies here--that our love of others above self translates even to our eternal destiny. It seems she goes even beyond Paul in his letter to the Romans (chapter 9:1-3) here--though perhaps it is just another way to say it: Paul says that he would give up his own salvation for the sake of his fellow believers--he would embrace damnation if it resulted from love of others. Indeed, Weil translates this love of others to love of God as well--or perhaps sees them as equivalent?

Why do I obey God? Is it for the benefits I will accrue? Is it for the eternal reward I will receive? Or do I obey God PERIOD for God's sake--and the sake of those others around me for whom Christ gave up all his self interest, indeed was forsaken by God, for the sake of this love for God and love for others?

Have we protected ourselves so much from the difficult truths of the Bible that we need continual jolting out of it? Jolting that can only be obtained by reflecting and focusing on the extreme paradoxes that make up Christianity--seeking the extreme implications and living out the contradiction--as Weil lived, loved, thought and wrote.

She wants to remind us, through this reviving of paradox that "we live in a world where eternal values are reversed...that we do not truly believe those things to which we declare allegiance."

How do we live paradoxes instead of stale and easy platitudes?"

Has any of this struck you like it struck me?
Listening, loving and waiting, Y

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Back in Toronto, A week in brief

We are back in full swing now, one week strong! This week was full of first readings for classes, which all met for the first time, extra work for the front desk at ICS, since there are no work study positions filled for new students yet, hammering out a preliminary Thesis bibliography and reading plan for the semester, and enjoying Toronto in its beautiful, warm fall glory. It was a lot for a week, and we come to this Sabbath rest in desperate need of it. This busy week was also a cause for deep thanksgiving, which I will try to capture briefly here:

* The breathtaking Toronto Islands: We spent our Saturday in carefree wonderment, eating lunch outside, walking on the beach, splashing in the lake, cruising down the boardwalk, enjoying ice cream, and spending time with good friends. And we are thankful for the physical stamina to bike the 10-12 miles we needed in order to enjoy it!

* Encouraging advising meetings: While we worked out our schedule for the year last week, our advising meeting on Friday was crucial. In it we talked about our proposed Thesis topics and the texts that we wanted to tackle this semester in order to become fully prepared to start writing. Both mine and Mike's meeting was a success, so far--more on Thesis topics later, you will undoubtedly get sick of hearing about them!

* Stimulating first classes: Since our focus is turning from intensive coursework to reading for theses, we have less courses this semester, and even less the semester after that. However, the two classes we meet this fall are challenging us with new authors to read, and interesting classroom dynamics (team teaching, larger classes, more students from outside ICS) that will be interesting. More on this later, as well...

* Promise of friendships begun and rekindled: Wednesday was the first "Junior Member" meeting of the year, giving us hope about new possibilities this year. The new students are already fitting in to the community here, and seem to be passionate about the work of ICS, renewing our excitement about this unique place as well.

* Challenging and exciting texts and authors: Of course we have to bring up what we are reading now! Mike for his class with Lambert on Mondays has begun *Truth and Method* by Hans Georg Gadamer--it is pretty dense, as you can imagine, or already know, so he has been working on it all week, though he is excited about what it and the class has in store for him this semester. I have been reading more about Simone Weil in preparation for my thesis--*Simone Weil: Thinking Poetically* and *The Christian Platonism of Simone Weil*. These two have got me thinking about possibilities for writing in the coming months, so stay tuned!

* Fulfilling and necessary work: Mike and I have put in quite a few hours this week and last at ICS' front desk, hours that have been fulfilling in their own right, but also encouraging to us by providing a means for us to continue our work here.

Well, that was a rough sketch of the week, backwards--we miss you all and hope that you are finding gratitude in the work set before you as well!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Say Goodbye" and saying "hello"

We have already been in Toronto for a few days and we are picking up our old habits once again. Tuesday we drove in with both Mom Mols and Hansen, arriving in the late afternoon. We unloaded quickly and easily-the place looked just like home... kind of. The most exciting items for us were the gently used bikes we picked up in the states for our use during the school year, with thanks to Katrina for unwillingly donating her bike to the cause. (Vive la revolution Kat!) Yvana spotted her own "Schwinn Approved" J.C. Penny cruiser at a garage sale and picked it up for a song. It is tricked out with full front and rear fenders, air ride saddle and cargo rack, all in chrome-like finish for a mere 30 U.S.D; a blessing indeed.

A greater blessing yet was both moms bringing Yvana and I here and in many ways setting us up for the year. After many misadventures our pantry is more stocked than it ever has been before, and our refrigerator is overflowing with a bounty of fresh food--even meat! (for those worried about sexual orientation...) IT was wonderful to have them both here and great to see them getting along so very well. They scouted out the T.O. Islands and highly recommended visiting, so be on the lookout for an excursion update...

After a whirlwind few days with the Moms, they sadly departed on Friday morning. We were already working around ICS on Wednesday and Thursday, so we didn't have as much time to spend with them, but evenings were fun and active. Our routines will gain a bit more stability as soon as classes begin again on Monday- I have class with Lambert on Monday and the IDS (with Yvana) on Friday.

(Here is where the blog gets long and ranting, and some may have already heard this or might not want to hear this, so proceed with caution, if at all.)

On the inside track, this has been a tough few days. I'm feeling fragmented, small, and big all at the same time, or maybe Bilbo's analogy gets at it better: Like butter scraped over too much toast. Not even a week ago we were back in central Illinois, listening to country music (I can still hear "If your goin' through hell, keep on movin'...") and watching the soybeans begin their transition of color that marks their final stage of growth to parched orange, gold, and eventually sagging crisp skeletons of their former verdant glory. We were enjoying a labor day breakfast with my summer co-workers, who are more aptly described as my friends and family. We bar-b-qued with many close friends at the Reppmanns in the suburbs of Chicago. Now, we are in Toronto, biking along College and meeting new students whose geography is Hamilton, St. Cathrine's, or Ethiopia and reconnecting with old friends from Hong Kong and the U.K. We want to be invested in each community so deeply that it becomes a perilous exercise in mental discipline to hold our shattered psyches in tact...

The goodbyes were harder this time around. It surprised me, because I assumed it would be habitual by now- we have done the solemn goodbye several times before to many of the same people. This time, it seemed to me within myself a goodbye of resignation. I knew that God willing I would see all these people again. The sorrow of goodbye is still there, but the shock and awe of it is gone. Only the acidic pain remains. However unwillingly, I am becoming more accustomed to seeing life as a series of goodbyes, of separation, and maybe more than that. Am I saying goodbye to the hope that some day we will be rooted in a unified community where we aren't constantly forced to horribly wrench ourselves from the people with whom we are so intimately connected? I suppose this time around I was saying hello to goodbyes, to the fact that the people we care deeply about are inevitably going to be separated from us by distance- geographical, emotional, intellectual... giving up on the hope of unfallen, pain-free fellowship. Jer Junkin's song was ringing in my head, prompting me to "Say Goodbye." I hope that real community doesn't just exist in my head, but I'm pretty sure the kind I ideally want is a phantasm, or at least an eschatological vision.

But Jeremy responds, observing that there is something binding us to you. All the pain wouldn't be there unless the relationship mattered when it was broken. So we look forward to restoration with you all. And I'm going to work on becoming more intentional with greetings, to try to give them the depth and character we normally ascribe to the grief of departures.

Maranatha; become all in all.