Seven Quick Takes No. 11

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1. It's tournament season which means, yes, I'm upset about my fencing again. I really thought that I was finally getting better, not going to end up in anger and tears, just stay calm and accept that even though my fencing is definitely improving (and it is!), it is never going to make any difference to my rankings or tournament outcomes. As I was driving to practice this evening (in the rain, listening to Teresa of Avila on the Sixth Mansions of the soul), I was congratulating myself on how calm I was feeling, knowing that however things turn out in competition this season, I am a fencer. And then I got to practice and...well, you know the rest. Fencers who haven't been at practice all summer were there and I was just as hopeless against them as I ever was. Plus ça change.

2. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live on something other than an academic calendar. My husband tells me to stop kidding myself, nobody else gets the summer vacations we (academics) do. And yet, I do wonder what it would feel like to have projects start and stop at some time other than autumn and spring, likewise what it would feel like for changes of season to be simply events in the weather, not harbingers of exactly the same cycle of events yet again. Some people take vacations in October or February; some people have projects that take different lengths, not exactly a term. What would it be like to have down time in autumn or start a major project in April? Or, I don't know, not have your whole life scheduled from now until next June--2012 (i.e. the next time I get to go on leave)?

3. Term is such a black hole. Whatever you were doing before term starts, forget it. You're not going to have a chance to think about it properly for months, by which time, thanks to all the thinking that you've done about other things, your ideas will most likely have changed and you'll have to start all over again. It's "only" the first week of term, and I'm back to working Sundays and evenings, every hour of the day that I'm not meeting with someone. It's a good thing I "skyved off" so much last year. I told myself at the time, particularly during the summer, that I would regret not letting myself have some real time off, not just a change of work. Once term starts, it feels all too easy to empty the well. Plus, during term, I often feel that I'm working all the time but not really "productive." Despite the fact that I work more or less non-stop, by the end of term I have nothing to show for the time that I've spent except some notes for class summarizing other people's arguments so that I would be able to talk about them.

4. And yet, I am feeling better. Who knew that what this melancholic introvert needed was more human contact? I've been following Vinita's advice this week, trying (to remember) to make every interaction count--because every interaction does.

And you know what?

5. I have amazing students! I have fabulous students! I have the best students in the world! Seriously. They are GREAT. You should have seen them in class yesterday morning: we had the most brilliant discussion about Rome, the Germani, Christians, cities, borders, religion and sources. And then in the afternoon, the conversation we had about religious reading, Scripture, Bonaventure's Breviloquium and doctrine--fabulous.* It makes it all worth it, really it does. As my friend Sweet Warrior says, I teach because I want to; I get paid to grade.

6. Those who have had an experience of God's presence are quite clear that it is unlike anything else they have ever thought or felt. They know what it feels like to imagine something, and yet God is not something they have imagined. They know what it feels like to reason about existence, and yet God is not something about which they need to reason. I can't say that I've had such an experience (yet) myself, but I am starting to appreciate why people who have are so unfazed by what passes for arguments against God's existence in our adamantly secular (i.e. this-worldly) world. It's like (and notice how describing the Kingdom always begins with "It's like") finally seeing what (fencing) action to make when all along everyone has been telling you what to do but you couldn't understand what they were saying because you had never had that experience, but once you have had it, it's unmistakable. You know what to do.

7. And as a final treat...

A frieze of Cardis from the dog show that my husband and I visited this weekend out in Stephenson County (about 2 1/2 hours drive west of here). The most amazing thing about the dog show: how quiet it was, almost no barking. Dogs are amazing, full stop. And these Cardis were incredibly well-behaved. I want one so much!

*Okay, so these are two different groups of students, but they're all great, really they are.


  1. 1. Huh? I can only testify about what I saw with my own eyes, i.e. epee, in which you more or less beat me into the strip. And I was not having an evening off, it was an evening on (gathering all my will here not to boast about the details, but it really was). And besides, I think that everybody there(*) did practice throughout the summer, including camps and such.

    (*) except for Dear Coauthor. Did you mean him?

  2. I'm generalizing so as not to be naming names. There was one fencer in particular there last night who doesn't practice as regularly, but against whom I feel like I have made practically no improvement over the past two years.


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