"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Ode to My Smart Phone

I’m lost without my iPhone. Joann and I just purchased ours a few weeks ago. I was literally lost the other day without it. I went on an exploratory run on Sunday that ended up being much longer than intended, due to the fact that my battery died.

I started to improvise and took a couple turns and a couple off-road paths before I came up to the top of a hill that I thought was right next to our condo, a hill which had a spectacular view of the area—including a spectacular view of my far-in-the-distance condo. I ran in the opposite direction for I don’t know how long. I was noticeably sore and sunburned that evening.

I love having a smart phone…I can’t believe I lived without one for so long. The GPS especially has been great for navigating and familiarizing myself with the area. There are a lot of freeways and new roads and exits and routes to learn. And being able to search for the closest Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Trader Joes, etc. has made the task of learning the area much less daunting.

Checking the weather every morning. Listening to podcasts on my way to work. Following the Mariners games on AtBat. Using a Nike app to chart my runs. Learning German on my German language app. Apps! So many apps!

Seriously though, how was humankind happy all those centuries without smart phones? Without apps?!? I can only conclude that they were, in fact, not happy at all.

I have this idea that makes me laugh, and I really hope I can muster up enough courage to enact it. I'd walk into a Best Buy and pretend to be shopping for a smart phone and act completely awestruck by every feature (think something like Andy from "Parks and Rec")...

“Whoa, these things got internet? No way!”
“Whoa, you can take pictures with it?”
“Hey, check it out babe, these things play music!”
“Whoa, dude, you mean I can get google on these phones? That’s awesome! Babe, I can google things with my smart phone!”
“Whoa, so I can like, get on Facebook and update my status from my phone? No way!”
"So, do these things have apps? They do?! Joann, these things have apps! You can get apps on these phones!"

Okay, I'm done. Actually, when we bought the phones from Best Buy, I asked the salesperson if he had a smart phone. He looked at me like I had just asked the dumbest conceivable question.

By the way...any recommendations on apps I should get? Like an app that you just can't imagine living without?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting Oriented at the GTU

We live in the bay area! That's crazy! More on this piece of our journey in future posts.

I’m in the midst of orientation meetings for myself and the other 38 new doctoral students at the Graduate Theological Union. And I am giddy. Absolutely giddy. After a couple days, it’s overwhelmingly clear that this is the right place for me.

Five of us are studying in the area of Christian Spirituality, and the rest are spread out through a variety of foci, such as Systematic Theology, Art and Religion, Philosophical Theology, among others. We all had a chance to introduce ourselves the first day and explain a bit of our interests, and I’ve also had the opportunity to chat with people over cheese and wine about their interests (they take good care of us at meal times...though places always put their best foot forward at orientation, don't they?).

I am both energized and humbled by my peers. Energized because I realize that perhaps more than books, classes, papers, and teachers, it may be the informal engagement with these fellow students that is ultimately most formative in my educational and spiritual experience here.

And humbled, because, damn, I have so much to learn. I anticipate lots of conversations where an idea, or person, or movement, or concept is referenced, following which I whip out the smart phone and do a quick Wikipedia primer on the topic (that's already happened, actually).

It’s tempting to act overly confident in an attempt to impress, but I really am hoping to avoid this kind of hubris and be comfortable with what I know and what I don’t know. But then, learn about what I don’t know once I realize I don’t know it.

It almost seems unfair that this is how I get to live my life—in this environment, with this community of scholars. But not just socially and relationally detached or indifferent scholars, but people with great hearts and noble goals. From what I can tell these are wonderful people who are here not simply in the interest of their own ambitions or career advancement—important as those are for them and myself included.

They are also eager to contribute something good to the human community, something holy, something beautiful, something life-giving. There is a great diversity of belief here, but an apparent commonality among us all to use our interests to make a positive difference in the world. Maybe I give them too much credit, but I don’t think so.

I am here because I want to learn, to study, to write, to develop my voice, and to prepare myself for a life of teaching and writing. After a couple days, I can see that the faculty, staff, and students are going to be a fabulous support network, challenging, pushing, prodding, giving me new ways to think about things, tearing down some of my wrong assumptions and views but also helping me become more self-assured in and able to articulate what I believe.

It's striking how real people and real situations can do that--clarify, or maybe even dismantle, belief. I think that's one of the reasons my theology has morphed a bit over the last few years. Speculating about God only as an intellectual exercise, preaching or hearing preached a sermon that so assuredly presents "truth", reading the Bible and coming to a conclusion about something...these things have the potential to lead to beliefs that have little basis in reality.

To give an example, this is why I don't understand how much of evangelicalism still can't acknowledge the capacity of women to lead churches. That's not true...I do understand it...because I know well this literalist approach to Scripture and the conclusions and practices it leads to. But it's still silly to me, and I suspect such a belief is rampant because many people feel like they are obligated to a certain way of thinking about how to read and use Scripture, perhaps because they just don't know there are other ways.

For example, that there is a way that you can actually honor the Bible and honor a woman's gifting at the same time, so that you don't actually have to say to a woman "well, yes, it sure looks like you're gifted to be a pastor, but, well...sorry...can't argue with Paul!" I think once you admit that "wow, I know some women that are really gifted leaders"...you realize how irresponsible and even oppressive it is to hold some of the views you hold. This has been my journey, at least.

Being at the GTU is sure to help me find my faith. I may have to lose it, then find it again, then repeat this process a few times. But I welcome this with little fear because, essentially, I don't want to believe what isn't true. I don't want to believe what's simply convenient. I'm not threatened by other opinions and viewpoints and faiths, because, if I'm wrong about something (or even the whole thing?), I want to know that I'm wrong, and not be wrong any more.

I hope and pray that I can really develop (I'm still a little more arrogant than I'd like to be) and sustain such humility while I'm here and that this posture leads me ever closer to understanding the God I see everywhere, in everyone.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Summer or My Clara

Conversation from the other day:
Matt: "I can't believe it's almost August."
Joann: "How does that make you feel?"
Matt: "It makes me feel like I didn't have a summer. I had a Clara."

I've been a bit absent from this blog for the last month or so. This picture captures my excuse.

Clara has been the most welcome inconvenience in my life, dramatically altering my schedule and rhythm and priorities, challenging me in new ways, yet bringing indescribable joy.

That is, unless you're a parent, or can accurately imagine what it's like to be a parent even if you're not one...then maybe you can describe it perfectly adequately and it's not so indescribable.

Sure to resume blogging once the school year starts up in a few weeks and the next exciting season begins! Life as a PhD student at an interreligious school in Berkeley is sure to provide plenty of fodder for blogging.

After all, the last time Joann and I were in the bay area we saw two 40-something men walking down the street in broad daylight, wearing nothing but socks and flip-flops.