Daycare has been open for about a month now, and soon school will be too. At the moment, however, things are pretty homebound here, as they have been since mid-March. That means my attention and energy are still directed toward more domestic pursuits. I’m generally OK with this, but I do feel some pressure to get out there and seize the day, too.
It feels a little odd to reflect on sabbath rhythms at the moment. Even the word “rhythm” feels out of place; were I to use a musical term to describe these last three months, “drone” would feel just as accurate. It often feels like the same day over and over again, which causes a little ennui to creep in from time to time. And as for a sabbath, I don’t feel like I’ve experienced a typical one of those, either, since this all went down.
There are glimmers of hope as I write: peaks are passing, curves are flattening, and intensive care units are not overwhelmed. At least in my neck of the woods. Even still, not all the headlines are good at the moment – and they never will be, this side of the veil – and surely there’s more bad news to come. Bad news is a bitter pill. But bitter pills are best swallowed on a full stomach, and so I’d like to teach you how to make another dish which bears gustatory and psychological benefits in equal measure.
It might be strange to think it possible to benefit from a pandemic, and I’m not one to immediately look for silver linings or that sort of thing. I do think, though, that if the time spent social distancing or in self-isolation helps us puncture some of our most dearly-held going forward; this is, of course, in addition to the benefit that comes from stopping the spread of a hideous upper respiratory virus.
Lately have I loved country music. Growing up, I could barely stand it. For a few reasons I guess, not least of which were some class assumptions; I was a middle class white kid from the suburbs, and through rejecting country music I could be white without being like those white people. Thankfully, like Ambrose converting a haughty Augustine, Johnny Cash knocked that snotty attitude right out of me in my early 20s. I repented when I first heard Cash’s famed American Recordings, the spare, stripped down records he made with producer Rick Rubin.
Well, I’m 40 now. I passed that chronological milestone a little over a month ago, and in the days since, I’ve found wonderful opportunities for reflecting on the big questions such an occasion brings: What, exactly, is “middle age”? Why does my back hurt that way? Why do the years seem to pick up pace as you collect more of ‘em? That last one makes me think not just of milestones but of mortality, too. I recall hearing theologian Stanley Hauerwas begin a talk by asking folks in attendance how they wanted to die. Pretty much the heavy metal-est way you can begin a theological talk. Maybe the way that most sermons should start too, now that I think of it.
A few scenes from this fall, recollected now at the end of the term: In early September, before the start of classes, I asked a first-year student about her experience of Orientation Week. She told the story of her first campus tour, which was led by an extremely effervescent administrator. As the group walked around campus, the tour guide highlighted various student services, and after a short description, noted how the institution so dearly desired for students to be “a success.” The word rang out over and over again, at each stop on the tour: success, success, success.
I’m sure Christian Courier has given you plenty to think about over the years. But have you ever considered the thing itself? Not just its content, but the very thing you’re holding: the heft of the newsprint, its dimensions, its font styles and sizes? (For the record, the body text is sturdy old Times New Roman, and we deploy Myriad for titles, sidebars and bios). It isn’t just the articles that are the product of much deliberation.
Pastoral ministry at a university means that I don’t spend a lot of time marking the passing of life into death. In the literal sense, anyway. This is an abundantly good thing, of course, given the average age of people in my parish. Another kind of death does figure in to my work regularly, though.
When a student I’ve not met drops by during office hours, one of the first questions I ask is “what’s your religious background?” If they’re Christians, they’ll usually tell me which sort of Christian – Anglicans say Anglican, Catholics say Catholic, Pentecostals say Pentecostal, and so forth. This is super helpful for any sort of pastoral care; knowing a bit about their backgrounds, styles of worship, expectations of clergy, goes a long way.
I had lunch with a Laurier graduate last week. We discussed the sort of recently-passed milestones you might expect in such a conversation: completed exams, grad school applications, job searches and his commencement ceremony.
Every summer Hollywood studios spend billions of dollars developing movies that are meant to get your pulse racing. Yet for all the A-list actors, cutting edge special effects, elaborate comic book source material, summer blockbusters are often terribly underwhelming.