For the bread of life? Broken open and shared across miles and months.
A hand stretched from eternity, offering a loaf of dark, Jewish rye, even.
Holding them on my tongue, pungent and present.
"See how my people have nothing to eat. Give them the bread that is you."
Those who take refuge in community while fleeing from themselves are misusing it to indulge in empty talk and distraction, no matter how spiritual this idle talk and distraction may appear. In reality, they are not seeking community at all, but only a thrill that will allow them to forget their isolation for a short time. It is precisely this misuse of community that creates the deadly isolation of human beings. Such attempts to find healing result in the undermining of speech and all genuine experience and, finally, resignation and spiritual death. "Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community." Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community.... But the reverse is also true. "Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Life Together"
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Shoved firmly in our pockets.We clutch it suspiciously, so unwilling to let it go—
we don't want to lose it.We clutch it fearing that once it is spent,
we will be without hope,
cast adrift, out of luck.
Yep, it's that time of year: Orientation.
And I have to admit it: as tired as I am by the end of my shift, and as cheesy as this probably sounds, I love this season.
I love beginnings. There is openness, promise, possibility. I love being a part of that for people.
Yes, helicopter parents are annoying. Some even piss me off when they answer for their student, incorporating their student's success into their own self-image. But even in the midst of that I love how I get to look their student in the eye and talk to them like an adult. Like they're able to make their own decisions. Because that’s part of what college is about: for better, or sometimes for worse, we learn how to make our own decisions. Let me tell you: interrupting parental control dynamics can feel great.
A lot of memories from my freshman orientation are coming up, stories that I can tell the anxious parents in the office waiting for their daughter or son. Stories about how hectic my orientation was and how in hindsight it's better to take care of ourselves than to stress out ourselves and our loved ones. Stories about how my parents were baffled by the notion of a Parent and Family Orientation, that when they were my age they just showed up on the first day of classes and winged it.
And a lot of memories from my summer as an Orientation Leader (as in, old-school Patriot Leader, circa 2006) wash over me, too. I remember helping people register for classes, especially that one girl who was the last person left in the room, who just needed to hear that it wasn’t the end of the world that so many sections were closed and that she could change things later at home. I remember proctoring the math placement test and telling students once they had finished the exam, "Go do something fun.” Because I sit at a desk in an academic department—and because I give people the time of day—I’m answering a lot of the same questions that people directed at me when I wore the green polo, and it feels good to be helpful in such a rudimentary way.
(Also, who could forget the interpretive dance about drugs and alcohol set to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Ecplipse of the Heart"? That right there is orientation gold.)
It also feels a little weird. I’m the guy at the desk. I’m not there to project my experiences on people; I’m there to explain the Spanish placement test for the billionth time. I’m not there to comfort parents; I’m there to make sure that they don’t walk into the freaking testing area (“Sir? SIR! CAN I HELP YOU???”). And I’m well aware that I’m on my way out, and that my job is to get myself to
At least these folks are taking the placement test now, when they’ve retained a little more French, than in the summer before their senior year. Really, if you need to take the test, just do it. Call me or one of my good looking co-workers at 703-993-1220. Peace.
OFPS 2006! I can't believe I found this picture! From left to right there are: me, Scott Picone, Byron Edwards, Javon Thompson (even though you can't see his face, I'm pretty sure it's him), Marc Moore, and Matt Berlejung. HT to Monica Block for taking the photo, and to the Mason Gazette for keeping it floating around the Internet.