Friday, March 18, 2011

Is it still Lent?

I occasionally reflect upon odd convergences (or divergences) in the two calendars that dominate my life, the liturgical calendar and the academic calendar. This week is an odd week. Liturgically, it is the first full week of Lent. It is the week of settling into our penitential practices, finding the rhythm of fitting in those things we've added or taken away to draw us in. Actually, for a great reflection on how the fasting that we do in Lent can and should lead us to put on the mind of Christ (which, by the way, turns out to be a mind of mercy), check out Emmanuel Charles McCarthy's "The Only Guide That Will Serve You Well Is Mercy."

On the other hand, the academic calendar marks this week as spring break. No, I'm not at some beach somewhere, but the interruption from the daily routine of teaching and meetings and class prep and all (welcome, welcome, welcome though it is), can seem almost decadently self indulgent. And, of course, a little added time (for instance) to go out to lunch and catch up with a friend, etc, can add to that feeling of self indulgence rather than penitence.

Add some other calendar issues (St. Patrick's Day, March Madness) and the week really has seemed downright un-Lenten at times. Of course, that has more to do with my willingness to grant myself "dispensations" from my Lenten observances in the name of these other things than anything else.

So, here's to renewed commitment and to staying focused on the more important markers of time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kindness, love, and unity

Through the miracle of Facebook, this poem came across my awareness today. It seems to me to get it very much right. Once you know the depth of the sorrow and loss that pervades the world, you know that without kindness, going on would be impossible.

Sometimes, everything seems connected. I'm reading this book, on the Focolare movement. I'm really struck by the simplicity of the Focolare spirituality, which seems merely to put together three basic questions for every aspect of life: (1) how can I love Jesus in the person before me; (2) how can I live for unity in this moment; and (3) what does Jesus forsaken on the cross call me to do in this moment?

These questions are pushing me to think I should be more kind and more loving. They also seem like great questions to ask during Lent.

Loving kindness, of course, is never out of season.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

1984 or 1776?

Today, I found myself with a little time to wander in a Borders. Actually, I was very much looking for books to help one learn Italian, in preparation for next year when I'll be living there (and, I promise, promise, promise: blogging more regularly).

As I came upon the section on languages, two young men (14ish) sort of stopped behind me and I overheard one say, "There's totally a book called 1984." The other retorted: "No way. You can't just name a book ... a number." "It's not a number. It's the year. It's a history book, but I sort of think it's a classic." As the other guy refused, yet again, to believe this was possible, I couldn't resist. "There's totally a book called 1984. It's by a guy named George Orwell. It's not exactly a history book, but the rest is right." Oddly, they verified that it was a classic, asked me what section to find it in (if not history) and walked away.

Within a couple minutes, they were back. "Excuse me, but is 1776 a classic?" "The book by David McCullough?" "Uh... I think so." I tried to explain the difference between a piece of literature that speaks to people in a timeless near-universal sort of way and a very high quality, well-written work that reports the history of a particular event. I don't think they got it. I still wonder what kind of an assignment they had. Were they supposed to find a classic? A history book? A classic history book? Or--who knows--a math book? I really hope that they were supposed to read a history book, and I hope that they chose 1984. What would it be like to read that book as history? Would that be possible?

It still cracked me up and made me think that I should blog again. So, here I am!