Friday, March 14, 2008

Reading in Community

Well, I sat in defense of my thesis yesterday and it went pretty well. Many jokes were made about how one should not sleep the night before one's execution, and I'll admit to a high degree of anxiousness, but it wasn't that bad. I was privileged and honoured to not only be evaluated by three smart scholars but by three wise ones as well. They were pretty irenic even in their moments of polemic!

At one point my supervisor said they had not made me sweat enough yet, and I informed him that I'd already wet my pants.

What I wanted to comment on here, however, is one of the positive comments that was made that I was really proud of, and before you click away suspecting I'm going to start boasting, please hear me out.

One of my readers said how thrilled he was to see that I had written this thesis and read Chesterton's novel in community. This was tipped off for him by the numerous footnotes to people I knew from Chesterton classes and conferences as well as from this seminary community. He rightly noted something that I knew all along and wish I could have done more to point out other than a few footnotes and an already lengthy-enough acknowledgments page, and that is that I could not have learned what I learned or wrote what I wrote without friends, family, peers, and supervisors who were willing to talk with me along the way.

In fact, there were far more than I footnoted: My brothers and my Dad whose voices are in my head whenever I throw a new idea around; The guy who pushed me in a debate to consider there was any substance to Chesterton's flare; The people in class who took the risk of sharing a differing perspective, or managed to voice their affirmation of my perspective without sliding into mere flattery; The friends here at seminary who not only were there for me when I needed them most but were not there when I didn't need them most!

Many jokes were made about what I hermit I was in the last weeks leading up to my due date, and I was honoured by the grace of my community to be always there for me and support me so thoroughly. I am grateful for the grace of the community in which I've found myself; friends far and near; debate opponents; and of course my family who made every sacrifice with me.

Anyway, it was an honour to have it said that I practiced reading in community, because I believe in this with all of my heart. Anyone who reads alone, has not yet learned very much. I like it when I read a book and let it bounce around not only my head but my heart and my relationships because by the end I find that the book is also reading me.

4 comments:

Bryce Ashlin-Mayo said...

Congratulations on the defense.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

Community. This has been my obsession for the past year or more. Our society is really lacking any sense of togetherness. We have very, very few rituals, and our value of individuality has been pushed to the point of perversion.

That (apocryphal?) story about someone dying in an apartment and not being discovered for weeks, is frightening because I think anyone living in a Western city recognizes how possible it is.

I know I sure long for more community in my life. More than just a close group of friends with interests similair to mine. But also people of all ages, and with broadly divergent viewpoints.

I could go on. All this to say, I envy you for having such a strong community around you.

jon said...

couldn't agree with you more matthew. this is probably the one thing we talk about most at seminary. individualistic, consumeristic, etc. . . these are bywords in almost every conversation . . .

i am definitely aware of how fortunate i am right now to be in a strong and diverse community. i'm starting to miss it already, knowing i have to leave it soon.

but we will seek this wherever we go.

one problem is that lots of people with divergent views who you'd like to have community with end up having a very divergent view on that very thing, and can be difficult to really find deeper friendship with, because the first sign of disagreement ends it all . . .

Tony Tanti said...

Congrats Jon, great job. Those of us lucky enough to have ideas bounced off from time to time are honoured to be in your community.