About two weeks ago, the head came to the faculty and said that there was going to be a special dinner for us, courtesy of the trustees. Being the paranoid crank that I am, I immediately wondered if we were about to be axed. As it so happened, it was on a night when I was supposed to go to a fencing match, so I RSVP’ed regrets and that should have been the end of it. No such luck. Last night’s match was cancelled on account of the threat of snow, so the head’s secretary cornered me in the hall during morning assembly and said, “so you’re coming to the party now. Right?
So I went. It wasn’t a bad time. They didn’t can us, for example, or throw us to the lions. In fact, we had a rather nice and pleasant hors d’ouvre hour with an open bar, followed by an extremely pleasant dinner in the functions room of the local hoity-toity restaurant where and I celebrated Valentine’s Day brunch. The head and I spoke about the likelihood of the Pope’s passing in the next few days (a tracheotomy is not a voluntary procedure — you only do it when it’s absolutely necessary), and the bad example that the Church is setting for people by allowing the Pope’s last few days to be compassed by so much suffering: late-stage Parkinson’s, pneumonia… he had to have been on some sort of breathing apparatus before the tracheotomy, so he’s now hooked up to life support machinery for certain. He might be pope but in a coma for six months to a year. Can you be pope if you’re in a coma?
One of the trustees came up, and I got bumped out of the conversation. Wandered a bit. The young turks were talking Spring training and March Madness, and some of the ladies were talking fashion, and the other young turks were talking local politics with the school librarian and her husband, who is on some sort of local town committee as I understand it. As usual at these sorts of gatherings, I didn’t feel particularly welcome anywhere. Wandered over to Bill, a fellow kidney-stone sufferer, and talked bread with him for a while. Since I gave up on the Atkins diet, I’ve reintroduced bread, and we talked about baking and dough and grinding corn — he’s got a hand-grist-mill for when he dries his own corn for corn meal. Eventually he went in search of his wife, and I drifted into a conversation about students. We always get talking about students, don’t we? I said gread-grandma’s grace when the head asked me to — “some ha meat and canna eat, and some would eat that want it; but we hae meat, and we can eat, and say the Lord be thanket” — and then sat down. My company was C&J, B&J, and M and L… the last two are a pair of women who were there without their husbands. They talked babies most of the time, B never says very much; his J talks mostly to him, and C&J talked mostly to each other. For a while we talked students, but I was very conscious that could have been there, and I wanted the last empty seat filled at the table so I’d have someone to talk to.
At least the food was good. I had a glass and a quarter of wine, which was all I really needed. That put me in just the right frame of mind to treat people with a modicum of good will despite sitting alone between conversations.
Toward the end of the meal, after dessert, I shifted over to the table behind me, and got into a brief round of political bickering. The school nurse and one of the other faculty are fairly solid Republicans; Pat and I played loyal opposition for a brief while. It was fun to see the nurse and the other fellow exchange uneasy glances when I told them about the South Korean banking news. Pat and I chuckled at their discomfort, but had our own discomfort, too — we’re both proud Americans, and it makes us uneasy to see boneheadedness at work in Washington, DC.
As we were leaving, D who was moderately sloshed, said, “I love it when you say grace. You say it like it actually means something.” I said, “thank you.” He then made several wide-ranging variations on this, concluding with, “I love Andrew. He’s religious, a deep thinker, an intellectual, a thoughtful guy, ethical, conscious — and he loves BUFFY!” Meaning Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Shortly thereafter, he fell down in the parking lot in the snow. Whether it was the snow or the alcohol that made him fall, I don’t know, and wouldn’t care to speculate.
That whole He’s religious and intellectual thing has been moving around me hard, lately. M’s husband R who wasn’t there last night cornered me about the DaVinci code a few days ago, along with CMK one of my best colleagues at Rectory. We talked about the feminine images of the goddess and her relationship to the god. Of course, we talked about Mary and Jesus specifically, but it was interesting — both of them don’t really believe the whole Christian mythological perspective. Jesus the philosopher, sure, and ditto the mystic, the transformer of religion, the son of god — but the whole Trinitarian two-men-and-a-bird thing … well, they’re not buying. Mike’s questions about the Virgin Birth and the kids of Jesus, too. And GE said to me at the Christmas party, “It’s all hokum, anyway. You do understand it’s all about love, compassion, and connecting with the Light, right?”
The website to the film What the Bleep do we Know — which I still haven’t seen — talked about the people who understand what the film is talking about as being subscribers to the Perennial Philosophy. They believe in the eternality of energy, of the weaving together of the tapestry of life and lifelessness, the dance of stars and atoms, the play of souls and minds and bodies. I’ve ordered the film, and I’m tempted to slip it into the DVD player in the auditorium some evening when I have the Saturday night movie with the boys. Still, the Perennial Philosophy is much on my mind this morning, and wondering how to teach it and connect kids and adults to it. People around here are hungry for it, and some of them are looking to me to discuss it with them… and here I am sitting silent at a major opportunity to talk, keeping my mouth shut.