Wanderlust

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There might be some changes to this blog coming relatively soon. A bigger place wants to pick me up. I’m sitting here with the paperwork half-done, wondering what the hell it means.

I don’t know what my “tag-line” should be. I don’t know kind of “brand” to create for myself, and I resent the idea of having one. (Tag-line: “Sometimes I say things”? Brand: “I’m not a shoe, thank you”?) Nor do I know whether I’ll end up somehow permanently destroying myself and my career.

I’m an optimist.

And though I know how they found me, sort of, it’s also puzzling. I’m not relevant, I write however I want, I don’t care to be provocative, and I’m super bad at catchy titles. I’m not that clever person who understands how social media shapes audiences. Basically, I just love writing, and in many ways I rely on it for my sanity. Rely on it in very, very real ways. So I write and write and write, professionally and…here. Doing this thing, here, this thing that now begins to cross over into my professional life.

I almost wish I could ask you, reader, to take my words and hide them away from my professional life. Make sure they’re safe, that not all of me is the job.

Lord, prevent me from being a public intellectual.

And yet.

Wouldn’t it be fun to wander through the Internet being maddeningly useless? Stubbornly continuing on with the odd poeticisms and Christological obsessions and obscure references. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if people liked it? Me and my really rather ordinary Catholicism; me and my complete disinterest in evangelizing anyone. I’m normal. Hurt in a lot of places, some common and some not, and I’m just normal.

I’m also an impulsive sort, and I have the hardest time resisting the chance to thwart expectations. I love doing that. This seems like a chance.

Oh, to be ordinary and therefore interesting. What a thing. And how funny it would be if it meant people could run out ahead of me. Loving the ordinary things I also love, and loving them better than me. I like that better than anything. Than anything at all.

So I don’t know what description I’d give my blog so search engines would find it. Really not sure what my brand is. I don’t know how to not just be intentionally frustrating about the meaning of my entire blog. And every time I think of signing my name, I get anxious and refuse to finish the paperwork.

Part of me thinks I have something to say; part of me thinks I have nothing. I don’t know what I’ll do, but here I am.

 

 

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2014 In Review: Stumbling Toward Honesty

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From the 1951 French film adaptation of “Diary of a Country Priest”

Tout est grâce. “All is grace.” These are the last words from Georges Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest, one of the pinnacles of 20th century Catholic literature. The phrase was given to me by a dear friend, and the book too. All three follow me in my heart wherever I go.

I began the blog thinking I would write and reflect. I enjoy doing both, and I am haunted by enough restlessness to need a place to shape and share my spare thoughts. The ones that don’t fit in a book or an article or a classroom. I don’t much mind who finds these meager little thoughts of mine, and I have never for a moment written to be known, to join the ranks of powerful Catholic bloggers, or whatever it is the Internet is for. And I haven’t, mostly, been discovered. I like this. The collection of folks who write to me sometimes, those who follow: you are to me my ragtag friends. My companions who fight as much as I do for a little understanding and a scrap of hope.

I began the year concerned I might not survive it. This was my secret worry. I felt smashed to pieces by all the inner struggles I’d just as soon admit to no one, and least of all as a Catholic scholar. I thought I had an image to keep, and that without it I might seal my own fate. We all have reputations we protect, and weaknesses we conceal. Not a soul doesn’t.

I guess I got too tired. Worn out at appearances. Or maybe I got a little stupid or a little brave. Either way, I stepped out into a kind of honesty I’ve never known. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression. I’m great at my job – I’m a young Catholic theologian – and I’ve suffered incredible violence that leaves me vulnerable and perplexed. It’s all true, the loss and the faith; the scars and the hope. Maybe it’ll hurt me, professionally, to admit it. Maybe some folks don’t want the trouble of a quiet professor riddled with fear. That’s a hurt I’ll take, though, because being honest has helped me feel less alone. Helped me feel a little closer to the ragtag sorts who cry and believe like I do.

I have survived, and by graces I neither knew nor saw. I’ll try to keep going on. I’ve got a new book planned and new classes to teach. New thoughts to think. And I am grateful for this little blog and its small company. I hope you each keep going too.

Happy new year, Internet. Tout est grâce.

Below is a little statistical summary of how The Rule and the Raven has done over the year.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hollywood has obviously been to grad school.

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Gradu-spy-du-cation. (A screenshot from “Alias.”)

So, here I am, real-life professor having endured real-life grad school, and I decide to watch “Alias” on Netflix. Because 2001 seems like it must have been awesome. And so I learn that the main character is attending grad school.

“Grad school” is a cavernous, wondrous library with an old guy chattering up at the front.

Sydney attends “grad school” with a little notebook and two other students who listen as the old guy rambles about… I’m not even sure what she’s studying. Books. I’ll make a guess. She’s studying books at grad school.

And she is a spy. She has time to be a spy, by the way.

While studying books.

Yes.

That is how I remember it: whilst I was an international spy, I learned about books and subsequently became a professor. A spy-professor. Obviously.

Graduate school was not a high-pressure, neurotic universe of overachieving in arcane knowledge that would see me enter a precarious job market. No: graduate school was sprinting through underground laboratories with sarcastic quips firing from my lips as I shot at enemies with my semi-automatic watch-machette-shotgun.

And, if I may add other movies and TV shows to my resources for understanding, I believe that what grad school has done is arm me to make wild symbolic connections to uncover nefarious plots, unveil treasures forgotten by history, and  also time-travel. Yes. I time-traveled.

I read a few French articles, too.

And I acquired the most amazing fashion sense while accomplishing said amazements.

Because all spies are beautiful. And all graduate students are…

Smart.

I studied books, friend. That takes some serious brains and well-chosen clothing that accentuates my natural joie de vivre.

That was French again. Just so you know. And I know Latin. They’re, like, the same. Almost. Except not. But similar.

My detailed knowledge of living and long-dead Western languages helped me considerably when I dismantled various Asiatic-Russian secret alliances. (The Cold War lives forever! So does Byzantium! Why not?!)

It’s not that grad school crippled my ability to make any conclusion without vociferous fact-checking and reflection. It’s that I punched the facts in the face. After reading my books. Because I studied books in a gorgeous library. At college. Where I learned advanced books.

And face-punching.

Or was it fact-punching?

I am not sure there is a difference. I stopped listening to the old guy yammering in front of the large stone fireplace in the amazing library with the rare books (which I studied, advanced-studied). I am too busy successfully saving the world with my learning.

That I got at grad school.

Yes.

 

New Site. New Sight.

Gustave Dore, Cover for Poe's "The Raven"

Gustave Dore, Cover for Poe’s “The Raven”

Seeing as I am facing a dramatic move across the country and a dramatic change in perspective as a human being, I thought I would re-invent my little blog. Thus I have created “The Rule and the Raven.” The old site will remain in existence as an archive of sorts. It was a fun place to experiment and reflect, but I am tired now of the “kung fu” childishness. It is time now for new childishness.

As for this new act of Internet, the “rule” refers in part to the Rule of Benedict, a deeply formative text and way of life in Western Christianity. It also refers to regulae of all sorts, since to be human is to be involved in laws and principles and forms. Yet in and through all these, there is that which presses far beyond form and articulation. I am fascinated by this strange crossway of integration and disintegration. It soars through every moment and snatches away the death of authentic speech. It is much like the raven that, according to legend, rescued the abbot Benedict from death.

“The Raven” is also a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. I like poetry. Gustave Doré (whose cover for Poe’s poem is above) is also a favorite artist of mine, and some of the most famous depictions of Dante’s Divine Comedy are his. Dante is another fascination of mine.

All in all, the website name is less – well – violent than the old one. This is important to me, too.

All of this is a roundabout way of admitting simply that I want to be different, and I’ve been reading a lot about Benedictines.

I will be updating the new site as I have time. Bear with me, and thank you for reading.