Delight Springs

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bridging differences, lighting fires, enjoying life

It was a very good day. The Study Abroad phone confab left me almost convinced that our dream course in the U.K. is now practically an inevitability, though of course many devilish details remain to discharge. Delightfully devilish details, I've decided.

Maybe the best news on this front: my colleague's  discovery of an ideal text anthology for our peripatetic journey called The Joys of Walking, small enough to slip in a pocket but rich and various enough of content (including the likes of Thoreau and Dickens) to attract students from across the disciplines.

Got off the phone and into the drink at precisely the time of mid-day when Sol's rays were hitting it right, the goldilocks swimmer's window. (Happiness, I've found, redounds to those who notice and applaud these small "just so" moments.)

Then, just as I'd climbed out and settled in to the deck chair for a few more sunny golden moments before getting back to work, I had to deal with an annoying, falsely-urgent bureaucratic paperless-pushing crisis. I hadn't filed the latest meaningless e-form at school, and the deadline loomed. (What happens when such deadlines pass? Happily, our "spectacular blue marble" keeps on spinning.)

Catastrophe averted, it was time to keep a happy appointment at Portland Brew with an old colleague. C & I taught computer ethics to Vandy engineers together years ago and had met up just once since his return from the west coast. Now, having built a thriving philosophy program from scratch out there in just a few short years, he's come "home" to turn the same trick. If he does it again, here, I'll call it a miracle. And unlike him, he knows, I don't believe in miracles.

But I do believe in the power of conversation and friendship to bridge Big Question differences. We differ on the God question, but share (besides some common experiences and mentors and pedagogical values) the language and mindset of pragmatism. When talking James, we complete one another's sentences. I'm looking forward to his book on the uses and abuses of prayer.

Our biggest point of agreement, pedagogically, is I think captured by the familiar quote from Plutarch by the bench in our Walnut Grove at MTSU: mind is a fire to be lighted...

We agree, our top job as teachers is to get our charges to understand what Emerson meant when he said students in libraries must not forget: those exalted old authors they've been assigned to read were themselves students in libraries too, typically, when they first thought about writing those books.

My friend and I had much to catch up on. We've both lost our dads since our last meeting, he quite recently. There's no replacing a good parent's (or a son's or daughter's) treasured and meaningful and real place in one's life. Our philosophy cannot entirely prepare us for the loss, or predict the priceless gain of happy memory that for most of us eventually overrides the grief.

We talked, too, about the present state of our profession and how much we both "pray" for the passing of the present voc-ed mania of administrators (as reflected in the "retention and graduation" mantra they keep drumming into our heads especially in the public sphere of higher ed). And I told him about Carlin Romano's uplifting celebration of The Philosophy Major, not (contrary to what some administrators would like students to believe) an endangered species at all.

A few doors down from Portland Brew is The Filling Station, a beer-lover's mini-paradise. I'd brought my empty Rogue Dead Guy growler in happy anticipation, and filled 'er up with Duck Rabbit Milk Stout. I'm not dead yet, guy.

Capped the day with a wonderful spousal date at Alegria in Green Hills. If you go, ask for the crawfish hushpuppies. Life is good.

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