Monday, 22 September 2008

bright spots and tumbling headlong

My teaching is coming along.
My father advised me to simply find the 'bright spots in the room' and teach to that small crowd, and let all the rest come along as best they can or wish to.
But I'm new at this and an idealist still, and I have to confess I want them all.
I want them all to be bright spots--illuminated, interested, engaged.
A room ablaze with light, as it were.
And that's a tall order.

The material for my afternoon class tomorrow is abstract and difficult, and I am seeking a way to bring them into it--closer to the frame... Like in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that portion near the beginning of the book where the children are staring at a picture of the oceans of Narnia, and it is such a Real picture that they stare harder and harder, and the picture begins to move, and then the children are swept into the picture itself.

That is the goal--how to make theoretical discussions of globalization so real that they start to swirl and flow, and we all tumble in headlong.

Such a consuming thing, to teach.

Friday, 12 September 2008

in search of self

The moon was luminescent last night,
a gleaming broken china plate,
and a wind was stirring
as my father showed me the grounds--
all the plants that must be uprooted or sheared
before winter comes.

This morning, before first light,
they were gone. And I awoke
to stillness. The television has
been disconnected, and I sat
at the table with coffee in my
hands, observing the trees post
their solemn watch around the
pond, and listened.

Things rise in silence.

This house is large for a hermit's cell,
it allows for restless pacing, or escape
from one's self, room by room, and is
full of artefacts of our lives. And I am
no hermit, nor monk--I am not
withdrawing from the world in order
to pray from the world, as Merton
once described the Trappists. Instead,
it is refuge, it is where I can come home
safe to myself. Home from the dizzying
effort of sharing this small store of wisdom
and experience that I have, trying to be
lucid, to be clear, to be reflective, to open
doors rather than hurling them shut.

I feel as transparent and as public in
little Houghton as I have felt anywhere--
it's like being on stage in some medieval
morality play--with the same cast of
archetypal characters. The students, we
are told, time and again, watch us. We
are watched. Will the audience think
me Judas if I never attend chapel?
Will the audience consider me a Pharisee,
a Roman, or Nicodemus, seeking truth
quietly in the night?

And I who am used to having
many selves,
(shuffled like cards for the hand that must be played)
many worlds,
can I be true to one?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Sea Voyage

It's been over a month now
in this place of berries and bears,
of shy wood ducks and tall rows of corn,
this North America I left more than ten
years ago, never intending to return for
more than visits.

The students are here now,
over one hundred of them
in my hands, and the
responsibility weighs
upon me. There are so many
ways to mean well yet go wrong.

I suppose that's true in all things in life.
But I feel, as always, unprepared for
this next journey in the long sea
voyage of my life.

As always, I lack a compass, or good maps,
I sail with the stars, and many are the mistakes
made in my attempts at celestial navigation. I go
east, to the beginning of the world and the end of
all things, and I do not doubt that I shall be welcomed
home, at the end of my portion of days.

But some days I tire of the sea,
of always leaving the dry land behind,
of the terror of thunder and gale and storm,
of the threat of smugglers' lanterns,
and all the long uncertainties of the journey.

Some days I think this is a fool's errand,
this life lived in faulty service of a Lord
I scarcely understand.

But there are companions for the journey,
most days, and strange wonders, like
dolphins and phosphorescence in these
mysterious waters.

And though the water onboard is brackish,
and the water without all salt,
I have heard tell, that at the edge of the world,
where I sail with all the hope and courage I can
muster up, the water is sweet.