[S]he was old and wise, which meant tired and disappointed…*
I approached this last week with mixed emotions. First, I had to attend a departmental retirement party. The festivities were complicated by internal politics, the details of which I will spare you. Suffice it to say that one of the retirees (a dear friend) refused to attend, several faculty members weren’t speaking to each other, and there were awkward pauses during the speech-making as people struggled to find nice things to say. The DH and I cut out as soon as we could.
Meanwhile, back at home, the mountainous backlog of laundry continued to grow as we awaited the washing machine repairman. On Monday he arrived promptly as promised and after fixing the problem swiftly and surely, left with a gentle admonition to keep an eye on the first load to make sure that the machine really was working. That should have clued me in, but he left, I did laundry, and then got engrossed in my book (more on that later). Much to my chagrin, when at last I checked the machine I discovered that my basement was flooded (what, again? you ask).
Urgent telephone calls and more waiting ensued. All this enforced leisure was to the good, however, as I had plenty of time to start my summer reading.
First on the list was the book that my dear, retiring friend lent me, Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James. It’s an inspector Dalgliesh mystery set at an Anglican seminary in East Anglia. It was very enjoyable and well written (I learned new words: etiolated and orotund) as well as a great deal about the inner workings of the Church of England.
Central to the plot was the controversy over modernizing the church to be relevant to ’21st century people’. I could certainly relate to that as my own church is suffering from the urge to modernize (especially regarding pronouns) in order to ‘be inclusive’. Those who hold this position apparently consider Christianity to be a nice fairytale generated by humans to console themselves. I have nothing against changing church-made rules, but if you can change the core beliefs at will to suit yourself, then it is all meaningless. So whether I’m ‘old and wise’ or just ‘tired and disappointed’, I’m not going to stop referring to God as ‘the father’.
Having finished the mystery, I have started a reread of T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which I hope to use in an independent study in the fall. Inside my copy it reads (in my own handwriting), “to Sarah from Daddy, Christmas 1971”. It was kind of a big deal to get a copy of the book. In those days there was no Amazon and so my father had to do some serious research to find it and then special order it through his favorite local bookstore, Paul’s Books. I remember being really thrilled by this gift as I had become fascinated with T.E. after seeing the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Can you blame me? Look at how cute Peter O’Toole is! My BFF, Lars, gave me the deluxe anniversary edition of that movie a few years ago and I clearly need to watch it again very soon.
I’m simultaneously reading James Webb’s Fields of Fire, another work-related read. It’s a famous Vietnam war novel similar to Karl Marlantes’, Matterhorn, except that it came out in 1979 instead of 2010. It will be interesting to see to what degree the immediacy of events shaped Webb’s understanding of his experience. Both authors served as marines in Vietnam and both were highly decorated for their efforts.
After I finish these books, I’m going to find something romantic and/or funny — I’ll definitely need a break from war. Any suggestions?
*T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom