Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sheesh, I can't believe how long it has been since I have posted something that isn't academic in nature. There has been a lot of great stuff going on, so I guess it is just a matter of having time to put together something worthwhile.

Where to begin? The weekend before Halloween the Micahs (the service-learning community with which I work at SLU) put on a Halloween party at a local elementary school here in St. Louis. If it's possible, I think our students had more fun than the little kids -- like last year, they had all kinds of crazy costumes and put on a bunch of goofy activities -- wrapping kids in toilet paper to "mummify" them, making them feel bowls of various nasty substances that were supposed to be innards, face painting, and so on. You know how those kinds of things go, so I'll just let the pictures do the talking:

The next weekend was the annual retreat for the same group of students, and this year, for the first time, we went to a state park and did more of a nature-y retreat; in previous years, we had gone to St. Meinrad Archabbey, which was fine, but this had a very different feel, and I think, a better one. We spent time introducing the students to centering prayer, walked the labyrinth (my small contribution to the weekend), had an amazing drum circle (see below) and a great evening around a bonfire. The drum circle was led by my friend Brian Robinette, a professor in the theology department (and a drummer in a local band), and it went something like this: he brought a couple of dozen percussion instruments, from drums to cymbals to tambourines to his kids' toy xylophones, enough for everyone to have an instrument, and he would play a basic beat and invite everyone to add the noise of their particular instrument, and somehow it ended up blending together really well.

That Monday I took off from work because I was at the retreat all weekend, and I went to go see the film Into the Wild, based on the book of the same name by Jon Krakauer, which I had read a few years ago. A powerful film, not perfect, but going a long way to show the intensity and honesty of this young man who goes into the wilderness of Alaska to discover what is most true in human existence. It made me seriously consider using that book in the theological foundations class I will be teaching in the spring. I'm considering that one, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Night by Elie Wiesel, and a couple of other books that, although not explicitly theological, deal with "the big questions."
This past weekend I worked on a Habitat for Humanity project with some of the students from the SLU Habitat chapter, and it was overall very good, mostly last-minute touches on a house that is just about ready to be lived in. That night a group of campus ministry folks went to see a film called Lars and the Real Girl, which sounded really weird but was getting good reviews. In a nutshell, the story is this: a reclusive young guy (Lars) in small-town Minnesota or Wisconsin who buys a life-sized plastic doll of a girl has a delusion that she is real and that he is in a relationship with her. There is a total innocence about the guy, nothing twisted about him, but his brother and sister-in-law, who are horrified by the whole thing, talk to the local psychologist, who tell them to play along so he can work through it on his own terms. What follows is a marvelous story of the entire town participating for Lars' sake, and the story was at once gentle and deep, with subtle use of drama to convey rich symbol. I couldn't get it out of my mind for the rest of the weekend.
Finally, this week has been hell on wheels from the start. A group from SLU, myself included, are going to the SOA/WHINSEC Ignatian Teach-In at Fort Benning, GA this weekend, so we have a laundry list of activities connected with that. Tuesday was the annual Campus Ministry Chili Cook-Off, a benefit for our annual Food Drive, so I made my not-so-famous apple-sweet potato chili; despite all my work in the kitchen and all my shameless self-promotion at the Cook-Off, I took a close second to my friend Laura. Next year…
All for now. I suspect I will have plenty to report on after the SOA trip. Mercy within mercy…