Monday, December 16, 2013

Portrait of a Nervous Breakdown


Or, Finals Week.
(NB: This post was originally penned during tech week for On the Verge. And then, of course, like everything attempted during a tech week, was left unfinished. It is fitting to revisit it during Finals Week. Which is sort of like a taste of tech week for college students.)

Listening to Brave on Repeat is a Finals Tradition



To make a successful Finals Week

Firstly and foremostly, an equation[because those are fun. And I don't have to do any of those for finals, but some people do. So in their honor]:
C(t)=C/(t-EXAM TIME)
Translation: The amount of chocolate consumption increases as time to opening decreases.
[C=All the chocolate in the house.]
Finals Week cost you dearly in chocolate, and apparently puts you at great risk for diabetes.

~
Recommended Study Breaks:
Christmas Photos with Roommates.
Dance Parties with Roommates.
Rolling on the floor with Roommates.
Eating chocolate with Roommates.
Singing with Roommates.
Hugging Roommates.
Talking about The Purpose of Education with Roommates.
Laughing over nonsense with Roommates.
Roommates.
Not annoying. Not annoying at all.

A lovely thing about Christmas [or finals?] is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
--Garrison Keillor

~
Back to studying.
Now, about this paper you've been writing for about a week now.
A thought:
To be fair, this isn’t just a problem with O’Reilly. In 1906 Albert Schweitzer observed that when people write lives of Jesus they inevitably end up describing themselves. It’s the key reason that some Biblical scholars think this whole project is bankrupt.
This is Professor Candida Moss talking about a book Bill O'Reilly wrote. But it's an interesting thought--that someone trying to write a completely objective view, will simply end up writing about themselves.
Our minds can hardly escape our own biased view of the world. Biased, as in, with us at the center.
And this is fundamentally what The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is about: when we separate ourselves from a community whose heart is eucharistia, from a communion of gratitude and thanksgiving, then no matter what other god we attempt to seek, ultimately, the only god we will find is ourselves.
And what a sad, lonely god that is.
We will constantly be grasping be grasping at straws of transcendence, but if we actually find a modicum of brave humanity to turn our vision out from the temple of our own hearts to see the world around us, we will find that we have actually found nothing transcendent. We are not soaring high above the earth; rather, we are still dabbling around, splashing in the mud, like a recalcitrant child who does not want playtime to end.
We will wax on about beauty, but find that our words fall empty on our own ears; mindless twaddle and brabble, having no weight within itself.

Perhaps a failed education is the education that does not shatter our safe little shell of self-interest. For it seems that the purpose of education is for us to encounter of transcendence, to taste the glory that is in store.
But, alone in my head, how will I find that? On my own, without encountering the thoughts of great thinkers or artists, without seeing Boticelli's Birth of Venus, without walking under massive, comforting the dome of St. Peter's, without reading "After the Lunch", without holding someone's hand when they are sad and lonely, how will I discover how far my heart's limits can stretch?
For, on my own, wrapped in the cocoon of my own mind, I will not learn that I am made in the image and likeness of the Author of the Universe, but rather, I will make Him into my own image.
That is what The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is all about.
I think this might also be what my paper is all about.

Classic Finals.
Every chance procrastination: a blog post, an email from your mother, a conversation with your roommates, a song, a stray internet article, coffee with a friend, can be woven into the final product.
For that's college, you know: random happenstances that you don't really understand, like the mad scene in the middle of King Lear, weaving together to create a masterpiece in the canon of theatre literature.

They say I'm too young to understand, that I'm all caught up in a dream/
All this time, I was finding myself, and I didn't know I was lost.
--Avicii, Wake Me Up

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