Monday, December 20, 2010

One week

A week ago, I was getting on the bus to go to the difference between here and there is that the time seems to have gone much slower. It feels like months since I've been in Oxford, and yet somehow like I was there just yesterday.
So how's the adjusting? Number one difference is that there is not a whole lot of people here. It's a little bit of a shock to go from 40 friends to just family. I'm reverting to my more introverted self, I suppose, which is nice in someways and not so nice in others. I was happily surprised to learn in Oxford that a different place without any expectations of my personality creates an opportunity for becoming more outgoing even though I'm not usually. Coming back here, it's almost like my subconscious knows that everyone here knows me as a strong introvert, so that's it's been behaving. However, it's great to have a little quiet too...since there aren't friends all the time here, I don't feel like I'm missing out on something if I just decide to hole up in my room and read for several hours for fun. (I've just finished Persuasion by Jane Austen, and The Danger Box by Blue Balliet...both so wonderful!)
There are many things I miss about Oxford. First and foremost, the people! But secondly,
* Walking. I can walk into town, but it's not much more than a 20 minute walk, and everywhere I can walk to kind of has to involve spending money, of which I have diddly-squat.

*Gas hobs. I never realized how quick they are! I am having to relearn how to make fried eggs on an electric stove.

*Cheap GOOD shortbread cookies. Seriously USA, why do you have to make these things so expensive?

* Pound coins. I love those things.

*Academic talk on every subject imaginable.

*Food group, and along with that, believe it or not, the Kitchen Dance. It was such fun to cook with a bunch of people in the kitchen, singing along to the iPod, or just belting out Christmas carols. (O Holy Night and The Twelve Days of Christmas in particular!)

*Movie nights, whether Hornblower or Foyle's War, or some obscure, deep film, I miss all gathering in the living room and squashing on couches in blankets. Also, that tin of chocolates...the brazilian dreams or whatever they were were the best. Red wrapper with yellow on the tips.

And many many more things. But at the same time, home has been great. I didn't realize how much I missed my family until I arrived and it felt like I never left. I also have the great blessing of coming from a family who has traveled, and one that is used to family members leaving and going somewhere new and then coming back. They know how to support those of us who have gone 'there and back again,' and that has made it a great homecoming. They don't mind hearing tons of stories about Oxford, or my friends there. It's hard to help people understand exactly what it was like, but I'm lucky to have people that genuinely want to try to understand. I think for the first month of being back, I am going to have to get out my Oxford 'scarf' of memories quite often, to make sure that it's still there, that I still remember, and to reassure myself of its existence, but I foresee that in the future I will gradually be able to let it rest comfortably in a pocket in my heart, where I know that it's there and can take it out when I need it, but can just let it be what it is. That's my hope anyway.

Oh yes... MERRY CHRISTMAS! God is with us, isn't that fantastic?
here's a link to a paper by a philosophy prof from Messiah, which has to do with the significance of the incarnation in relation to atonement theory. It made me think a lot when I read it, and though it's not exactly 'Christmas-y,' perhaps a few will find it interesting:
The most recent version of the paper is the first link, I believe.

Over and out,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Time to say Goodbye

I wished for about the billionth time today that time would move a little slower. This term has gone by in a flash.
I wish there was some way to seal memories, first feelings of something in a bottle, and then open it up and re-experience it again. Like the moment of walking around the back of The Vines and seeing everyone for the first time, and feeling nervous about making friends, or of turning in my first case study on Robin Hood, or walking across a land bridge to an island off the coast of Scotland. Or drinking tea in the kitchen of the Kilns. Or hugging a friend for maybe the last time.
Goodbyes are hard, did you know? But I suppose we're just going to have to get used to it. As Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchitt says, "Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it."
I was inspired to put some poems that I've written this term on here by my friend Zach's blog. I posted the Oxford Sestina before on facebook, but I think it's fitting, so I'll put it here too:

It begins with the opening of books
fueled by much desperation and tea
And the attempt to awaken the stone
-like brain from granite slumber with food,
prod it with cookies and conversation.

Then within there begins conversation
between the crowded pages of books
and the busy mind; words become food
and thoughts begin to swirl, bathed in tea,
building, building, mortar upon stone
until they manifest in writing.

Then, the conclusion, and one begins writing
a new experience of conversation
steeling feeling like immoveable stone
to accept the criticism of books
and the unknowns, armed with soothing tea,
and that dear word ‘good’ that gives the soul food

to write again. Then gather round for food
with a new family, for the writing
of a new branch that is bonded by tea,
not blood, and brought close with conversation,
unity of age, and the love of books
until friendship is laid firmly in stone.

This city breathes years in yellow stone
the treading of feet upon feet is food
for poetry, prose. The scenes of books
unfold around corners, walking in writing,
from the page to life, a conversation
with art, with the past, with the tea

shops and cafes where the giants sipped tea
and now you do, touching all of the stone
they have touched, echoes of conversation
in the pubs where they sat, eating the food
you are now eating. What are you writing?
will it return to its birth like these books

will it become like they have, the food
for another hopeful pen writing,
alive in this place of knowledge and books?

And another, written as a meditation during devotions.

Mark 5
Talitha Koum
from the depths daughter
sleeping daughter, with
cheek as cold as frozen steel
and heart stiff in proportion

Talitha Koum
be warmed, have this breath
see, I have taken you by hand—
you have Heaven in your palm.
awake, and eat again with me

Talitha Koum
“Little girl, I say to you,
get up!” leave this way
of monotonous striving,
take this hand and get up

Talitha Koum
do not sink to the earth,
to the world again, you
have not finished yet.
you are not dead but asleep.

How to come back to the real world? How not to be an island? It's an end to a very golden era.
On Thursday night, we had a dance party for about 2 hours. It was such a hilariously fun "closing ceremony" type thing. Today we watched The Snowman, and gosh darn it, I felt such sympathy for the little kid. I feel like when I step onto that bus for the airport, in some ways it's going to be just like that little boy running out the door, only to find that his snowman friend has melted. But then he reaches into his pocket and finds the scarf he was given, a kind of relic, the proof that his night with the snowman really happened and that it was wonderful. I guess that's what the photos, the memories, and my new friends will be...the Oxford scarf in my pocket. :-)


Friday, December 3, 2010

The end of tutorials

Well, today I had my last tutorial. I finished Victorian literature with Dr. Plaskitt last week, but this week I had my last Shakespeare tutorial with Dr. Thorpe. We discussed As You Like It, and looked at how strong of a woman Rosalind is. We talked about Shakespeare for a bit, but as usual we branched off onto other topics. We talked about Oxford and the kind of opportunities it provides, but how it's kind of a one of a kind place, an "island city," not only because it is almost entirely surrounded by rivers, but because it is intellectually set apart.
I've realized that returning from here is going to be harder than I thought...not exactly because I will miss the constant papers, or even the city itself (though I certainly will miss it) but because I will be back in the real world. The real world isn't a house full of intellectuals, the real world isn't Philosophy around the dinner table and speaking to nearly anyone in the house about Shakespeare and having them understand. The real world isn't walking in the snow at midnight while some of you talk about Wiggenstein's possible worlds, and others talk about how they will take up space on bookshelves in Borders with all the books they will write. Dr. Thorpe talked about Oxford as the Island City, but I guess what I kind of feel like is that sometimes being an educated academic makes you part of an Island generation.
That sounds so utterly snobby, and that kind of disgusts me, because that is exactly what I don't want to be. I don't want to come back acting like a snob because 'I've been to Oxford!' or act like some sort of elitist. I'm so very pre-disposed to have a snobby attitude too. So many people have thought I am a snob upon first meeting me. But the fact of the matter is, most of the world has not had the experiences I have had, has not read the things I have and doesn't think about the things I do, simply because they aren't academics. How do I reinsert myself into real life? How do I become a real person, and not just a white, upper middle class, intellectual, who has had many life experiences but doesn't really understand life? I don't want to be one of college kids who talk about poverty, and have visited a third-world country, but really have seen nothing of suffering, or think they have answers to real world problems because they've read about them in a book, or on some pretentious person's blog. I don't want to be the person who can read a philosopher and consider his ideas, but some how can't learn to relate to someone who might not be as educated as myself. I don't want to be an Island, mentally sneering at people who don't know who Virginia Woolf is. But it's difficult, because these topics, these authors, these ideas, this way of being, is something that I love. It's a lonely thought to think that unless I stay inside an academic bubble, unless I ignore the majority of world, I will not be able to often discuss the things I love. And I can't ignore the rest of the a Christian that isn't even an option, and I really don't want to do that either. It will take some deliberate and purposeful action on my part to make sure I don't become an elitist.

That was all kind of angsty and all that, so I apologize. I'm not actually in deep emotional and mental turmoil over this, but it is something that I've been thinking about, and realizing that I need to deal with a little bit. Don't worry, I have interests beyond academics...for instance, in about 2 seconds I am going to watch Crocodile Dundee, and I am just as excited about it as I am about reading To the Lighthouse.