Friday, September 16, 2011

Just shoot me

For a long time the idea of writing a blog was something, to be honest, I would have sneered upon most mightily.  It isn't hard to find blogs out there that are little more than vanity pieces, with too much of this and not enough of that and lousy grammar to boot.  It got better, and with time I was less disinclined to read blogs by others, even if writing one myself was still not a consideration.  As I stumbled onto blogs written by friends of mine, even if friends I hadn't seen in quite a while, it became something that helped me catch up with folks I had lost touch with, to my regret (mind you, there were plenty of folks I lost touch with who, when contact was re-established, I quickly figured out might have been best left in the past.  That happens).

So why does Notes on a Fool's Errand exist?  (And should that title have been italicized or in quotation marks?)  A few reasons.  In part I wanted some way to keep some folks up-to-date on how the fool's errand is going, particularly folks back at the "home church" in Lawrence (though I don't live there, my supporting church and presbytery are back in Kansas).  Letters would probably be more polite, but stamps aren't cheap and there's no guarantee the Postal Service will survive my time at Union.  Besides, there might be some folks out there in other places besides Lawrence who might like to know what's going on too (probably not, but I can hope, right?).

A secondary reason is for the sheer practice in writing, more specifically a non-academic mode of writing.  I certainly had to do a good bit of writing in my previous career, and at times I could be quite good at it.  That is, though, a rather different mode of expression; the writing of research presentations necessarily has a bit more formality and some elements of Joe Friday ("just the facts, ma'am") to it, although I confess I wasn't always adept at keeping to that formula.  Any writing (primarily the writing of sermons, though maybe other things, ... who knows?) that I do going forward (after the student years) will of necessity be a little less formal, a little less academic, and (shudder) sometimes a bit more personal.  No, writing a blog isn't like writing a sermon, and I'll be the first to say that my experience in academic writing will be incredibly beneficial going forward.  There are, though, some elements of that mode of written expression that I have not tapped into in a while, and writing this isolated little blog may help in re-awakening those elements in me.

One week of fall term is in the books.  Academically I'm going lose a bit more eyesight this fall from all the reading, but I do believe it's going to be an exhilarating experience.  All of my classes -- New Testament I, Theology I, and Church History I -- are just teasing me with how much intellectual and, yes, even spiritual stimulation may be forthcoming even as I lose my mind or suffer the inevitable destruction of my faith that so many people attribute to seminary study (yes, that was a tongue-in-cheek remark).  As much as I'm sure I could have gotten a stellar seminary education at the other schools to which I applied, I am more convinced than ever that I'm in the right place and among the right people.  I have got to find a job somewhere, but other than that I am excited, eager to plunge forward, and even happy.

Personally that's a great thing.  For the writing of a blog ... I don't know.  "Still content, still happy, still excited" isn't much of a blog entry.  And one of the things I really don't want to do with this blog is to "write angry."  Good Lord, there's enough of that out there.  (For that reason you'll seldom see me writing about politics these days; even this disclaimer sentence is beginning to make my blood boil.)  Is misery necessary to write a blog?  Or is that one of the stereotypical things that I was reacting against in the early days of disdaining blogs?  Or am I just flat-out incapable of making contentment and fulfillment sound interesting?

There is, though, something else I want to avoid in writing this stuff, the thing that provokes the title (no, it is not meant to be taken literally, any more that it was meant so as the title of a cheesy sitcom some years back).  Please, dear Lord, deliver me from smugness.

You've read that kind of thing, you know what I'm talking about.  The kind that cannot cut some slack.  The kind that has gotten rather comfortable with a position of moral or ethical superiority, and brooks no real-world frustration or disappointment in others.  The kind that takes too much pleasure in an unhealthy dollop of schoolmarm scolding of those who don't live up to the blogger's standards.  Frankly I'd rather write angry than write smug.  So if you catch me in that, that's where the title of this post comes in.  I may not react that well to it, but I will emphatically need the chastisement if I am guilty of that, so bring it on.

If one week is able to teach anything, it has taught me how little I know.  Not that I can't learn it, but how much I do have to learn.  And of course I'm aware that this is not an original insight (I promised way back in post number one that I wouldn't have many original things to say, didn't I?), and as a professor I was certainly aware that learning and growing had to be a lifelong pursuit.  I am thoroughly jazzed at the learning to come.  At the same time I am humbled.  I know so little.  There is so far to go.  I'm in no position to be lecturing to others.  But then, really, who is?

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