Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

[vocation] what i learned from !writing my midterm (and the week that followed)

So, I wasn't going to take any classes this semester, but then I saw World Religions Today: Diaspora, Diversity, and Dialogue, and that seemed really Relevant to My Interests (as we say on the internets).  I opted to take it for grad credit because Maine conversations with Ian struck a nerve I recurrently talk about ecumenical and interfaith work and if I ever decided to pursue that in a more professional/official capacity it wouldn't be a bad thing to have actual coursework on my resume.

The course is online only for extension students -- by which we mean: recorded lectures from the undergrad class.  Which really are wholly lectures.  Except Fridays (the class meets MWF) is either a film or a panel.  I haven't found any of that to add a whole lot on top of the assigned readings -- and so I have fallen behind in watching any of them.  (It occurred to me at one point last week that I still feel largely like I'm auditing the class.)

Our midterm assignment was a 4-page paper -- the assignment for which we got like a week before it was due.  The topic questions I was most interested in related to the book we were reading that week (our first reading assignment on Judaism).  I worked on the midterm some, but come the weekend I was having difficulty making myself continue to work on it.

There was also the problem that I'd done the minimal amount of the readings for the previous weeks, so while I had some ideas (which were percolating and gelling as the weekend turned into the week) I had real difficulty saying anything of substance.  And really I just wanted to talk about the Judaism book.

Monday, when Scott left for lunch he said, "Good luck with your midterm.  You can do it -- but you know that."
I told him that when I'd left church the previous night and said I was going to pretend to write my midterm, Tiffany had said, "You write sermons; you can write a midterm."
The assignment is 4 pages (1.5 spacing).  The sermon I wrote the previous week is 4 pages single-spaced.

On Monday I got an email from our TA saying extending the due date from "Monday" to "Tuesday evening" -- because the TA forgot to send us a reminder.  o.o  So I spent the first half of my day trying to write my midterm and the second half of the day trying to write the background note for work.

Then I went to Brandon's "Theology of Praise Music" talk.
Early on in the talk, he said something about how a lot of traditional praise music doesn't include anything about why we are praising God.  I interrupted and said why don't we just get to take that for granted -- that since we're in church we believe that God is worthy of praise.  Hey, he had said we could interrupt.

Afterward, a woman named Stephanie was chatting with me and she said I had made good points or something and I sort of apologized for having interrupted and she said it helped relax the environment.

I chatted with Jeff for a while afterward.  I told him I should concede and be on the re/New mailing list, because yes I am interested in being a part of conversations about how we do church.
They read the Emmaus story at the beginning of the service (because they do a sort of agape meal thing) and he said I should read it at re/New some time -- only that means I have to get there on time (re/New begins at 7pm, at which time I am usually having dinner at CWM).
I also said that this reminded me that I should email Chris A. about the The Crossing's upcoming Faith and Sexuality series and my possible involvement on the steering committee (or whatever).
Jeff also told me about an upcoming Mass Bible Society Friday night Bible study.

Tuesday I felt like absolute crap -- though I was getting better by the end of the day.  I had dinner plans with Jessie, and I could have rescheduled, but I didn't.  And after dinner I went home and tried to work on my midterm some more, and around 11pm I decided to just not write it and to just go to bed.  I felt really at peace about this decision -- which worried me a little; I mean, it smacks of teenage no-consequences invincibility a bit, but there didn't seem to be much actual utility to my slogging my way through putting together some sort of paper.

I don't like jumping through other people's hoops.  Yes, ever since first grade I have continued to forget this sometimes.  On the other hand, I am more wired for office work than a lot of people I know, so clearly I am capable of operating on other people's parameters in some ways.

Tuesday afternoon, in articulating my lack of motivation to do the work for my class, I had the epiphany that I want to do stuff that is relevant.

I was telling Ari on Monday evening that I think sermon-writing isn't so much a Call as I find it fun and intellectually stimulating -- and I don't so much for example my class.

I did some Googling on Tuesday, and apparently I *just* missed the Fall 2009 local training for lay speaker.


I went to Rest and Bread Wednesday evening, still feeling tangled, emo, I dunno.  I was glad I was going to Rest and Bread.  Ari, I thought of you -- about laying one's whole self down at the cross.  We don't actually have a big cross in the chapel, but we have two crosses on the lower part of the altar, and I was basically just looking forward to being in the chapel space and maybe flopping down on the floor with God.

Starting that week we moved the start-time to 6:15/6:30 instead of 6:00/6:15.  We had no seminar at work that week, though, and Katie was staying to study for a midterm, so I still got there at like 5:35.  I did all the setup (including moving a table out of the chapel and finding the papercutter) and still no one had shown up, so I was going to sit in a corner and pray, but then Laura Ruth showed up.

Laura Ruth asked me how I was and I said, "mixed."
"What are you mixed up about?"
I didn't correct her but instead told her about my choice to not write my midterm for the class I'm taking.

She said, "Is that the good part or the bad part?"
(I said I felt "mixed" about it.)

I said I would rather not hand in anything than hand in something half-assed, which is an issue I need to Get Over.
She was like, "why?"
I said because I think it's a problematic kind of perfectionism.

She said that when she first met me [June of last year], I would give feedback without any awareness that there might be feelings involved, and I've gotten so KIND.  (I told her my mother would be proud.)  I said I've definitely been more conscious trying to do that for the past some months, though I can't point to a moment when I said, "I'm being a bitch and I should do something about that," and she looked aghast.  I said I knew that wasn't what she was saying.  She said she would never say that and would never think to say it about me.  I said it seemed to me an accurate articulation of "giving critical feedback without acknowledging the feelings that might be involved."

She said I have such a keen mind that my knowledge is really valuable, but if people won't hear it, "Then what the fuck is it good for, you know?"

Keith came in at like 6:03, at which point Laura Ruth went to get the Elements from the kitchen.  It was really nice to have the time to talk -- Keith and I often have time to chat while we help set up, but I rarely get to talk to Laura Ruth for more than a few minutes due to time constraints.

During the pre-service meditation time, I sat on the (carpeted) floor in front of my seat because I'd decided that's how I would be most comfortable.  (I sat in my actual chair for the actual service.)


Thursday before lunch, Ian was showing off his new watch to me.  He said, "I need a new brown watch -- this one's a piece of crap."  I asked, "So explain to me how this is a better watch."  During the conversation, he said that one bad thing is that his old one lit up, which the new one doesn't.  I said that is a really useful feature.  I also commented that the old one has numbers on it.  Ian said, "Yes, this one [the old one] is more functional."

Ian: "It's not always about function.  You've gotta look good."
I said, "It's a fucking watch."

He said I'll change -- after I get my grad degree, when I'm making a million dollars.  That when he was my age he was like me.  (It occurred to me later that this isn't true 'cause he was working at McKinsey when he was my age -- but I know what he meant.)

I said, "The shit that I care about?  You don't make a million dollars doing that."  I talked about church -- said that you don't make six figures doing that kind of consulting work.  He said, "But is that what you're going to be doing?"  I said that's what I'm passionate about right now.  He said that's more important [that I love what I'm doing].  Which I really appreciated -- that he didn't try to find some third option where I could be doing both (which is a fair response and one he's given before) but was just like full-stop.  He said if he'd stayed at McKinsey he could be making a million dollars -- but it wouldn't be worth it.


Thursday evening was the monthly re/New meeting -- debriefing the last one and planning the next one(s).  Heather and Tara were v. helpful -- concrete ideas, etc.  I regret that I didn't explicitly thank them.  (I also learned that Tara was on a multifaith council when she was in college.  And was amused that she and another person who's now at FCS were both on it -- she as a UU and the other as a conservative evangelical.)

Molly and Rafe came late.  Molly suggested readings from Kathleen Norris' Amazing Grace and asked if any of us had read it.  I said I'd heard it was really good but hadn't yet read it myself.
Molly was shocked -- "A spiritually curious person like you?"
me: "I've got a lot going on -- I'll move it higher on my To Read list."
Molly: "I'm sure you do -- you go to a lot of church."

Jeff had proposed "religious self-identity in a world of multiplicity" as the theme for the next one.  We opted to decouple that into "religious identity" for November and "a world of multiplicity" for December (knowing that there is inherent overlap, but hoping this will help us focus better).

Molly talked about having to come out as Christian.  Christianity is un-cool.  Buddhism is cool, even Judaism is cool.
"The non-missionary religions," I said -- having recently read Fackenheim and Kimball.
Molly: "Yeah, but Islam is kinda cool, too."
me: "But they hate America.  And it's cool to hate America."
Everyone else looked aghast, but Molly knew what I meant.  (And yes once people started responding to me I said that of course that was an overgeneralization and that I just meant if we're talking about broad cultural perceptions...)

Jeff and I chatted more afterward, and it turned out that he actually meant "tell" the Emmaus story -- and while I proved that I can actually tell the story from memory, the way I tell it is slangy and flip and not how I would want to tell it at re/New, where it has a particular framing purpose.  Not that I couldn't read it a number of times and develop a "telling."
Tags: harvard: ext.: course: world rel. today, people: h: ian, people: h: scott k., planning ahead, vocational discernment

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