Monday, December 9, 2013

cliff notes; spark bars

That last year at the university was an idyllic year; fall, winter and spring, glowing with health and youth, we enjoyed them all, the burning heat of the prairies, the dry cold of the winter snows, the smell of the upturned blue-black spring earth.
--Dororthy Day, The Long Loneliness

Right now is my favorite time of the year.
It is a mixture of weather-induced angst: it is sort of gloomy and cold, and the sky has forgotten its summery shade of cerulean, and is now overcome by foggy mornings and clouds that are bursting with snow waiting to fall.
But our Advent Calendar is slowly marking the days to Christmas, and our home has turned into a little haven of warmth and twinkle lights in the midst of the cold.
The autumnal pumpkins that still grace our flower box are gilded with gelid blanket of icy white.
Christmas trees have popped up in all the appropriate places on campus (and some inappropriate places as well).
There is a veritable cornucopia of Christmas decorations on this campus, and surrounded by this wild proliferation of festive foliage, it is difficult to let the gloomy weather and the restless nights of reading and writing get you down.

This morning, as our chitter chatter and laughter quieted to a dullish roar, our professor bid us good morning (which it was: it is a bit chilly, but I had a peppermint mocha by my side, as well as a friend or two, and that's pretty much all you really need, and the snowflakes are quite large and distinctly shaped into delicate little lacy hexagons, so I am appeased).
Then, he announced the news that this day was our last day of class.
I turned from my peppermint mocha to my friend, and made a face of sadness and surprise.
I was not ready.
I imagine it was analogous to how I would feel at the Second Coming: Wait. No. Really? I wasn't ready for this. I still had more to read, I was going to catch up on the assignments I had not yet done, and I was going to transform into a brilliant classroom commenter who wouldn't constantly trip over her two verbal left feet.
Advent is about being prepared for the unexpected, and I realized that I should maybe work on that.
It's also about anticipatory Joy.
Anticipatory Joy is about stretching your heart out each day, in anticipation of a Joy much larger than you can imagine, and much wider than your capacity to receive arriving, waiting for you to welcome it into your overcrowded inn.

One of my favorite feelings is when you look back on the semester and realize how much you have actually learned.
You realize that somewhere between the skipped assignments and tardy papers and skimmed pages of reading, you have added a bit to your body of wisdom and knowledge, and that is sort of miraculous: that you find enlightenment almost in spite of yourself.
When an unexpected ending came to our class, we realized that we were not done learning.
The brilliant, dazzlingly intelligent student I had hoped to become has not yet materialized.
So how on earth could a class come to an end?
I was not finished with it. I had more to read, more to think about, more to learn.
Then, you sit back and realize that thoughts you are thinking right now are not thoughts you could have been thinking four months ago.
You simply did not have the skills or the knowledge or the ability to think them.
And that is sort of stunning and humbling.
There is an infinity of wisdom to encounter, to dive into, and you find that just when you think you've waded all the way out to the deep end of the pool, you're back in the shallows.
You thought you had plunged into the deep waters, but you're just splashing around on the bank.
So you strike out again and again, the deep end of the pool, tantalizing, always just within your reach.

When you say Yes to God unconditionally, you have no idea how far this Yes is going to take you.
--Hans Urs von Balthasar

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