summer update

Stanton Peak
Hello all. My noted absence in the electronic realm lately is due to my much needed presence off in the Sierra Nevada. I’ve just finished leading two separate trips (with Carolyn) for Sierra Treks.

The first was an eight day trip for alumni of an off-campus program in Oregon – The Oregon Extension. The OE, as it is called, is home to a handful of wonderfully eccentric professors, one of whom was on the trip with us to lead us in bible study and contemplative practices. John Linton is a wonderful fellow to get into a long conversation with. He’s deeply interested in questions of violence, and especially religious violence.

The group also included my new mom and dad – Carolyn’s folks signed up to come on the trip to fill out the numbers. Spending some extended time with them in a place we all love was a real treat. Adult trips are a lot of fun to be apart of, there is space to let people do what they would like, there are less social pressures, and there is often a greater honesty and openness possible among those who have had a few more years to come to know themselves.

That said, the energy of the second trip was totally different. We led one of two groups on the Inoculum, a pre-orientation trip for incoming freshman to Westmont College. The nervous energy among the students is palpable, and it gives the trip a very excited feel. These are really fun trips to lead. Along with seven days of hauling our packs around the wilderness, we spent a day climbing, a day on a technical 12,000 ft. peak, and 28 hours of solitude and fasting in the woods. The twelve day trip has an academic component as well as the wilderness component, so we were lucky enough to be joined on the trip by one of my former philosophy profs at Westmont David Vanderlaan and his (new) wife Kate. David led us in discussions about the nature of faith, doubt, and selfhood. Informally we had a lot of great conversations about the mind-body problem, ontological dualism, the persistence of physical objects, and Reformed/Orthodox/Lutheran theology.

I led a series of Bible Studies that brought passages of scripture together with poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. They were focused on creation and our place in it. The first was an attempt to relocate our consciousnesses to understand that we are a part of creation, not gods hovering over it (using Job 38-42 and “Pied Beauty). The second looked at our purpose in creation as “namers”, priestly mediators of God’s meaning and order (using Genesis 2 and “Ribblesdale). The third touched on the change in the human relationship to creation that comes with the fall. Rather than being comfortabe and naked in the garden, all our needs met, we find ourselves tearing creation apart to cover our shame at the sight of our own butt cheeks out in the breeze. I take this as a metaphor that holds true even at present. The fourth study looked at ecological aspects of salvation and especially about what the reconcilliation of all things means in a new creation. I enjoyed talking with the students about things that are close to my heart – theological reasons for Wilderness and conservation. Hopefully some of it connected.

Midway through the trip (on day 9), Carolyn flew out to Albany to take the Hippocratic oath and don her new white coat. I miss her quite a bit as I wrap things up here in Bridgeport. Next week I start driving East with all our worldly possessions. I’m looking forward to being out in Albany, we’ve got a nice little apartment in an old Victorian house. I’ll be studying for the GRE’s, finishing the master’s thesis for Regent, and applying to PhD programs in the area around Albany. Carolyn will be cramming medical textbooks so we will by quite the studious pair…

4 Replies to “summer update”

  1. I’ve just found this post while searching for information on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Ribblesdale”. I’m interested to read about the Bible studies you based on Hopkins’ poetry, as I’m organising an event here in Leeds, UK, looking at Hopkins’ Christian worldview. Have you studied his scriptural themes a lot?

    1. Hi Richard,
      The Bible studies on the trip (five years ago now!!! ack!) were quite informal, so I don’t have anything prepared that I could pass along. What sort of event are you organizing? Hopkins’ poems are so thoroughly laced with scriptural references and themes, that any extended amount of time spent reflecting on his work seems likely to me to produce quite a bit of material. I’ve been reading Hopkins for years now, after taking a class on his thought at poetry at Regent College (with Loren Wilkenson).

      If you are near an academic library, you might also pick up a few copies of “The Hopkins Quarterly,” an academic journal devoted almost entirely to Hopkins. I think that you’d find helpful material there for whatever your project may be.

      1. Thanks very much, Eric. Yes, I agree that Hopkins’ work is uncommonly full of Christian themes – it’s a wonderful opus!

        Our event here in June will focus on readings of Hopkins’ poems, but I’m preparing a short talk looking at Hopkins’ notion of “inscape” and how it may relate to the Reformational philosophy tradition which emphasises how everything completely depends on God for its ongoing existence. Since you were at Regent, I imagine you’ve come across Reformational thinking? Our WYSOCS institute here seeks to be a beacon on the UK scene, where we have very little in the way of Christian higher education outside of theology.

        I’ll look out for the Hopkins Quarterly, anyway. Thanks again for your help!

        1. Can’t say that I’ve come across “Reformational” philosophy as such, unless you’re referring to the thought of the 16th c. Reformation. Hopkins would be a bit of an odd choice there (as a convert to Catholicism), but the theological point about everything depending on God for its essence, integrity, and identity sounds very much like Hopkins.

          Since it seems to be relevant, I have an article in HQ that looks at inscape and identity in Hopkins thought, tying him to one of his major influences, John Duns Scotus. Here’s the bibliographic bit: Meyer, Eric Daryl. “Incarnation and Omnipresence: Hopkins, Scotus, Particularity and Pantheism.” The Hopkins Quarterly 34, no. 3-4 (2007): 102-116.

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