Month: November 2012

“Keeps going to the end.”

“I have to do more than simply endure the next several months.” –Journal entry, 11/27/12

Focusing on enduring life for a period of time until something (a semester?) is over or until something bigger happens kind of… sucks. It’s miserable to dig a figurative trench and determine to suffer through x until y happens.

I drove to school this morning with a particularly disdainful view of my lousy attitude. Berating yourself for failing to enjoy life as you should doesn’t help matters.

The word of God does. Colorful sunrises do. Perspective does.

Love never gives up…

[Love] puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinthians 13:3-7, The Message

So I clung to perspective for dear life, drove to school, and drowned my attitude in a cup of liquid bliss: strong coffee. It occurred to me that I like my life right now, and that it’s an affront to everything good the Lord has given me to wish six months away.

Look up

For the last few days, I’ve had sporadic urges to stop walking in the middle of various sidewalks and stare up at the trees like an idiot.

…at least people look at me as though they’re questioning my intelligence when I’ve got my eyes above the horizon line. Maybe that’s an unfair assumption about what they’re thinking, though. They’re probably much more understanding than they seem.

This morning, it was about 35 degrees outside when I walked past a Japanese maple tree on the way to engineering class. Something about the texture and color of the burgundy-brown mini maple leaves compelled me to stop and stare.

I stood on the sidewalk near the building’s entrance as other students from class filed by. If I had been staring at a cell phone, no one would have looked twice. But I was looking up, thinking textures, colors, shadows, and lace against a cold blue sky. Like an idiot.

“You know, it’s colder in the shade.”

“There’s… a heater on inside, Steff.”

“What, is there a possum in the tree again?”

*freshman with thick-rimmed glasses raises eyebrows and shakes head*

*freshman with a parka carefully steps over cracks in sidewalk, obliviously walks into me*

“You could always take a leaf inside and enjoy it there…”

I couldn’t bring myself to disturb the scene by taking even a single leaf out of it. A big gust of wind blew, though, and for a few seconds I was part of the picture in front of me. It snowed burgundy mini-maple leaves. Later, over an Excel spreadsheet, I found a leaf that had hitched a ride in the folds of my scarf.

I feel like I’m thinking along the lines of the romantic poets I generally despise, but they might have been on to something.

This world the Lord has made–it’s so beautiful.

Procrastinational Paradox

There’s something lonely about education.

We frame it in community. Discussions, lecture classes, instructors, and peers all point to a relational learning approach. But the process of learning is a starkly lonely one.

For all the times I’ve bemoaned a lack of an “easier way” to absorb information, I’ve been reminded that I’m on my own to process the material. For every study group I’ve participated in, I’ve reflected on how much more I’d get done if we were actually studying rather than sipping lattes or discussing the new Hobbit movie.

Automatic-fact-absorption doesn’t usually just happen. Concepts have to click on an individual basis, not a corporate one. When I’m crunched for time and have material to learn, I go somewhere–alone–and wish I was elsewhere, wish there were people to listen to me complain about my plight.

Usually I end up at a busy coffee shop for a few hours with a very heavy backpack and a good pair of  headphones. Alone. And I study, make connections, or memorize facts. By myself.

It’s weird. Though learning is totally dependent on my own curiosity (discipline?), I can’t get the information itself on my own. It comes from everywhere outside of me.

Conclusion: four years of college have taught me that it’s impossible to learn without myself, but it’s rather annoying to learn with myself sometimes.

I should be studying right. now.

Give an Answer

Apparently hauling a big stack of Bible archaeology and narrative books to Starbucks for a long study session can result in interesting conversations.

A few days ago I was camped out in a cushy chair in the corner of Starbucks, papers and books around me in a semicircle on the coffee table, lamp stand, and floor.

A guy with a laptop, a stack of books of his own, and a bright red beard sat down across from me. “You must be in grad school,” he said, and nodded at the stacks of books in front of me. Then he started asking questions.

  • How could I analyze the Bible from a literary-critical perspective?
  • What about all the texts that contradict the Bible?
  • How do methods of historical analysis play into the study of the Bible? In short, as an academic, how do I approach the Bible as having any validity at all?

Bearded Scholarly Dude, it turns out, is a self-proclaimed scholar and a Clemson University professor. He got his undergrad degree at a private Christian university in Texas, spent a few years teaching English in Asia, then returned to Clemson for his graduate degree and to join the faculty there.

He believes there is a “divine,” but that it would be too presumptuous to believe that mere man can wrap his man around it. His conclusion? That we shouldn’t even try to understand any kind of supernatural. It’s more fun, he says, to live in awe and wonder at the mystery of the world around us.

Wondering about everything.

“There are lots of probabilities. God probably exists. The floor might hold me up when I stand up to walk out of this building,” he said. “But it might not.”

In short, he doesn’t really believe in anything for sure–physical or supernatural, visible or spiritual, and he doesn’t care to try.

I shared with him a bit of what I believe and why I believe it–why I have reason to believe the Bible is more historically accurate than any other religious book, how I can balance an academic search for knowledge with a spiritual one, and my relationship with the God of the Bible.

“So,” I said, “You’re a scholar. Why spend your life teaching and studying if you can’t really know any truth?”

He didn’t have an answer.