Thursday, March 31, 2005

To Be A Book

Book meme, continued. Begun with Terrance and now moved on to others, including

Apparently there's some confusion about what it means, in the book meme, to "be a book" in Fahrenheit 451. Okay, caveat: I never read it (eek), but I know the story.

In short: in the future, books are considered intellectually dangerous objects and are destroyed. But an underground of book people exists; each person's task is to memorize a particular work, from beginning to end--to preserve it and then pass it on to the next generation, and thus to preserve these verboten items until they are valued again, and not permanently lost. It is assumed that literature reflects the truths of living, and by becoming these books, your life and outlook on life are changed and made more thoughtful.

That's it, in summary.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Bookish Meme

I've been given a challenge by Terrance. I normally don't do memes. I don't know why. But it doesn't matter. This one, I'll do.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Wow. Well, I'll choose something significant, but less well known: The Way of a Pilgrim -- a classic of Eastern Christian spirituality from the 19th century. I was first introduced to it by a piece of fiction (Franny & Zooey, by JD Salinger), and I read it as an undergraduate. Sadly, I've never read it again, but this is the book I choose as the book I would be and preserve.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yes, many, including comic book characters. But that was a long time ago, and we won't speak of such times.

The last book you bought is...?

The Norton Critical Edition of Julian of Norwich's Showings--in Middle English (from the Paris manuscript), with critical essays and contextual pieces. For my master's paper.

The last book you read is...?

I'll qualify this. Cover to cover, no skimming? Conversation as Ministry (Douglas Purnell), for a course in Fall 2004 on "Spirituality of Pastoral Care and Counseling." I've covered many books, either not cover-to-cover, or via skimming, since then.

What are you currently reading?

I'm in school. There are books on my nightstand that I pretend I am reading. Really, though, school reading fairly occupies my time. With that said...

For Contemplative Drawing:

For Church in History II:

For Foundations of Christian Spirituality:

For my master's paper:

For guilty pleasure:
  • short stories from Robert E. Howard's Nameless Cults. REH was the pulp-era creator of Conan the Cimmerian, a.k.a Conan the Barbarian, and was actually a fine writer in his own right. This volume collects his Lovecraft-inspired works. There is actually some crossover between the writings of Howard and Lovecraft, and you could properly count Conan in the Cthulhu mythos.

Five books you would take to a deserted island

Not as easy as I thought. Yes, my original list was 7+ books, but here we have the winners:

  • The Bible, with Apocrypha (specifically, the Oxford NRSV Study Bible)--as a source of spirituality, literature, myth, poetry, I am hard pressed to find anything that competes with this. (Technically, it is many, many books, but I will sidestep that technicality.) A study Bible of the type with historical critical notes and maps, not just multihued sidebars about how to love Jee-zus.
  • The Lord of the Rings--technically, a novel, not a trilogy. I've read it over a dozen times. It can stand a few dozen more readings, I believe.
  • The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson--to feed another aspect of my spirituality and my intellect, and because I'd probably never have any other occasion to read this collection.
  • The Mahabharata--I thought long and hard over this one; an Indian (South Asian) epic that dwarfs the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is the story which the Bhagavad Gita occurs in the midst of. The version I'm choosing is an older translation, because it is the only complete English translation. Of course, it is, in this translation, 4 volumes (2000 pages total), so I'm not sure whether that would count as four books. If I had to choose a single volume edition, then I'd go for Krishna Dharma translation (1000 pages). And If I weren't really on a desert island and just wanted to read (or rather, reread) a nice abridgement of the story, I'd read the Narayan edition (under 200 pages).
  • Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings --edited by Richard Foster, this is my iffy-selection. I wanted something that encompassed the breadth of Christianity, and wasn't too slanted toward a certain tradition. Of course there is a slant in this, and Richard Foster is not my favorite author. But I respect his spirituality and what he is trying to accomplish, and I believe that in this volume, the other voices he is bringing to the forefront (e.g.,Augustine, Thomas Merton, Fredrick Buechner, Evelyn Underhill, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hildegard of Bingen, John Milton, etc.) will add a panoply of voices beyond and above his own.

Who are you going to pass this baton to (three persons)? And why?

I have to choose three people who will actually do this? I follow a number of blogs, but I don't actually know that many bloggers. With that said:

  • Biquet--housemate, friend, and my Mirror Mirror universe duplicate. He is the post-Enlightnment version of me. (I retain just enough myth to stay on the cusp of the Enlightenment.) He would doubtless have some fascinating items. (I enjoy his blog, he just needs to blog more. I know, who am I to talk?)
  • Peacebang--I know she reads, and she reads a tremendous amount. She has a lovely library and a magnificent mind.
  • Boy in the Bands--Even though he won't do this, cuz it isn't quite his style. But that's his choice; I still choose to nominate him!
With that, these meme concludeth!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

O Day of Light & Gladness!

Happy Easter--Christ is Risen!

Although my Christology is unclear (to me, at least--and this is a subject for other posts), I can find no other words to express for this day. Clearly, I have a high enough Christology that Easter has a meaning beyond just Spring and flowers.

The details of my Easter:
Easter blessings on any who find these words!
Easter blessings and peace on any who find these words!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour;
Radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered death! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever! Alleluia!

(from Celtic Worship Through the Year: Easter Anthem)

Doctor Litterarum

If wishes were fishes, beggars would cast nets. And this is the doctorate I'd be most likely to get: the D.Litt (doctor litterarum, or Doctor of Letters). An informal web search of the D.Litt. in academia seems to indicate that the D.Litt could be any number of things:

  1. an honorary degree only
  2. an advanced degree open only to those who already have a PhD
  3. an advanced degree at institutions outside the US, which (along with the D.Sci.) might comport to the PhD but not carry the same weight
  4. an interdisciplinary program at Drew University, in Madison, NJ.

It is this fourth option that interests me the most, since I am by nature interdisciplinary. I've been such since my undergraduate days; I recall a professor spitting out the word "interdisciplinary" like it was a bad thing, when discussing my academic plans. My seminary degree has taken on an interdisciplinary character. And I know that any advanced degree studies--which I'm fairly confident I will one day pursue--will likewise have to have some interdisciplinary aspect to it. (For that matter, it would be nice to have some practical bent to it, and if you're in the business of pastoral counseling, spiritual formation, and education, that leaves you open to many, many possibilities.)

I like the Drew program. Let me offer some highlights:
The Drew arts and letters degrees are two of the most innovative of the few graduate programs in the greater New York area devoted to the study of liberal arts. The D.Litt. is the only doctoral-level degree program in the area. These degrees are graduate programs of interdisciplinary studies that explore the foundation and development of Western civilization in relationship to contemporary society....

The D. Litt. degree program flows naturally from the Caspersen School's successful M. Litt. program, first established in 1971. This graduate program of interdisciplinary studies, unique to Drew, explores the foundations and development of civilization in relation to contemporary societies. Although unfamiliar to most Americans, in Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, the Doctor of Letters is a degree with a long and respected history. Traditionally, it is awarded to students as an interdisciplinary degree in the humanities....

Students are required to concentrate in one of the seven series (Foundations of Civilization; The Modern Era; Contemporary Studies; Art and Music; Philosophy, Science and Technology, Studies in Spirituality, and Writing) offered in the Arts and Letters curriculum. (No doubt, I'd focus on the Studies in Spirituality series.)...

The D.Litt. dissertation, which includes an oral defense, is judged as a constructive and well-ordered contribution to human thought and relations. Candidates are expected to evidence creativity and disciplined study in their work. The doctoral thesis should evolve from the student's course work in the program. The dissertation is considered the normal method of satisfying this requirement and is approximately 150-200 pages in length.

If you're really interested, there's a brief description or a detailed description.

So what's the problem?
D.Litt. degree recipients complete a rigorous, interdisciplinary course of study that many find makes them excellent candidates for teaching. However, students whose sole goal is to teach full-time at the college or university level should be aware that full-time teaching at this level usually requires a Ph.D. in a specific discipline.
And there we have it. Credentials, again. This is the sort of program that would probably be most conducive to my intellectual interests and desires, but it is basically the wrong set of letters if I wanted to teach full-time at the university or seminary level. Higher education is quite mercenary nowadays; learning is not really elevated or valued, when it comes right down to it. Investment has to have reward. The reward of higher education is professional advancement. Feh.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure what I want to do. But I want openness and flexibility. I have a collection of masters degrees that make me well-suited for a variety of career --and more importantly for me, vocational--possibilities, including theological librarianship, spiritual direction, and pastoral counseling. A D. Litt would greatly enhance these possibilities, but if I wanted my work to take me to full-time faculty status somewhere, it might serve a hindrance. In that case, a PhD in Pastoral Counseling or Spirituality might be better suited for me.

But admit it, the D.Litt sounds fun. It is the sort of learning process and environment that excites me. Too often, I think, the US higher educational system beats the desire to learn out and replaces it with the need to conform to the academic machine, to become another cog.

Of course, I'm not well known for having entirely practical or pragmatic degrees, so what difference should this make?

Shouldn't knowledge be the reward of learning? Shouldn't the love of learning come first?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Movin' on Up...

A good friend of mine who I cannot justfiably call a "fellow blogger" --because his blogging is prodigious, and my marginal level of activity is nowhere in that league-- has been mentioned on CNN. Or at least, his blog's commentary on the Schiavo case has been mentioned on CNN.

I highly recommend his blog, Republic of T. It is linked in the sidebar, and you can explore it for yourself, or you can go directly to the CNN piece (and his own commentary on it).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Something to remember.

I had to remind myself of something today.

I am in seminary for many reasons. I am there for training in professional ministry -- that is, for credentialling and for ministerial formation.

But for every late night that I've kept, for every hour I've lost to school, for every paper that has frustrated me and exam that has annoyed me and student that has exasperated me...

I love what I am doing. I am in a program where I can engage in dialogue on matters of faith with similar seekers, where I can read and digest and discuss the Biblical writers (or some of them), like the Prophets, the author(s) of the Psalms, John the Evangelist, even some Paul; classic writers like Augustine of Hippo, Benedict of Nursia, and Julian of Norwich; as well as some contemporary writers like Walter Brueggemann and Jim Wallis.

One day I presume I'll lay claim to Unitarian or Universalist writers, but I can say for now that I'm intruiged by James Luther Adams, George de Benneville, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, the fire hasn't struck yet.

It is in seminary that I can study sociology, and history, and literature, and art, and pastoral theology, and spirituality, and try to weave it all together into the tapestry we call Christianity--frayed in places, scorched in others, and in some places stunningly beautiful.

In other words, I had to remember what a blessing seminary is for me. I suspect (well, I know) that even after I finish my degree, after a host of requirements and obligations are met--I'll be back in class again. And probably still loving it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


A mild retooling. I'm not sure.

Blogs are interesting beasts. I'm not sure why I am going through this, given the 2-3 readers I have; I can just as easily email them. Who knows, perhaps one day I will pick up more readers and they'll want to wander backwards and see where I've come from.

Anyway...The Aerie is out. Peregrinato is in. (For now.) The name Looking Eagle still has meaning for me, but for the purposes of this blog, and my musings, reflections, and wanderings, I've chosen the name peregrinato (Latin for "pilgrimage"). Life is a pilgrimage, a journey; we are not put here to stay, and we are moving toward something. For some, this is a meaningless cliche. For me, it is the truth.

The Aerie had too many connotations of "I'm looking down and observing you all." I think that may have originally been somewhat intentional (I've been calling my home page "The Aerie" for years), but as I (try to) mature, I am looking for something that seems a little less presumptuous or condescending.

We'll see where this goes. Perhaps another false start. Perhaps not. Sometimes I'm okay with things taking their own sweet time.