A huge "Thank you!" to my brother, who designed the new banner for my humble little blog. The picture he used was one that I took about five years ago at my seminary one fall afternoon. The brilliant, red leaves had blanketed the grass in a most inviting manner. I had just received my first-ever digital camera as a promo from Dell after buying our new computers. So I took my camera outside, lay across the slightly damp ground, and took a bunch of photos with my nose in the leaves.
The grove, after which this blog is named, is just a stone's throw away from where the picture was taken. While I was in seminary I could often be found out in the middle of that grove, on my blanket, lost in delight and wonder as I read for Old Testament, Theology, Liturgy or whatever else was on the plate for the day. Truth is, I felt the only safe way for me to read and write theology was to lay prone against the earth. Anchored there, I could be permitted to soar.
I often experienced a feeling of ecstasy while in the midst of my studies at seminary. This was one of my clues that I was going to follow the academic path and not the pastoral one. But this was a bit of a catch-22 for me. One of the things that made my experience of seminary so spectacularly wonderful was its life-and-death relevance to people's lives. I worried that if I chose the academic life, I would immediately lose the relevance.
I remember walking across the grove after a class in the first semester of seminary, convinced that at any moment I was going to spin off into the sky, gravity having no hold over me any more. But by the time I got to the steps of my apartment building, just on the other side of the grove, gravity had already begun to re-assert its dominance. By the time my hand was on the door, gravity had shaped its question: can anything this fantastically pleasurable be real? How can this en-joy-ment stand against all the weight of the world? The experience had been one of ecstasy, born out of enjoyment of engaged learning. And it felt suspect.
I've experienced this conflict for years now. When I went to the Oregon Extension my junior year in college, the first day of class we had to go around in a circle and say why we had come to study there. When my turn came, I said only two words: "To know." My earnestness and headiness embarrasses me now. But it was truly my answer at the time.
Learning, teaching, knowing are erotic, passionate, ecstatic processes for me. Sometimes I love what I'm studying even before I step into the classroom--I love words, or reading, or theology. Sometimes I come to love in the midst of studying--I discover, uncover, fall off balance, search. Sometimes I'm given language for something I've always loved, but hardly knew people had developed entire language systems around such a thing--this was my experience of studying liturgy for the first time. And sometimes it's the people who are doing the teaching whom I love. All of them are interwoven.
Reading bell hooks Teaching to Transgress has served as the catalyst for these thoughts--my Ode to Learning. :) One of the things I've heard myself say most often when I'm asked why I want to teach Worship to free-church folks is that I want to help free-church folks fall in love with worship. This is true. And it delights me to think of teaching in this way: teacher as matchmaker.
Well, thanks again to my brother--for helping to make my blog a familiar place.