Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 23, 2004


My oak in front is doing well. Split in half, and reconnected, it now displays full leaves of green. My cedar in back is not doing as well. I was least worried about it when the cutting ended. Only a few branches were twisted, some gashes in the side. I scraped on some tree sealer and moved to more damaged saplings. It is now the most sickly, branches droop, pale instead of bright green, some brown. I’ve taken to watering it, I shall do so more regularly. We’re in a drought up here, not supposed to water anything. I’ll break the rules, for if it grows it shall be such a well placed tree.

The evening is cool, my breath billows out. I notice the fir tree, once hidden by the cedar next to my window reaching out its light green shoots. The firs have blossomed with the pines gone, making a strong case that this shall be a fir forest. The cedars all look thirsty, the firs look eager.

This day ends. Thoughts again tease and run away before I can catch and document them. I sit and stare at my floor, trying to recover my intended topic. Ah, well… they seem to be gone. They usually try to come back in the morning.


There are three wires strung across the driveway, leading to some houses behind my own. I have known they were there, acknowledged their presence, especially when various tree cutters came, and even more when SoCal Edison came. These power wires strewn across the driveway saved us around $7000. This morning, however, I noticed them. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the way the bright sun reflected off their dull black in an unusual way. Maybe it was a unique breeze, or heavy unseen bird, making the wires sway more than surrounding branches. Usually they retreat into the surroundings, there and not there. Of all the beauty outside they catch my eyes, and now I can’t seem to focus on anything else. It is harder now, really is, for the sun is hidden behind haze, the wind now blows the branches more than the wires (or the bird has flown away). They are there, only now they blend in with the perspective. Curious. My eyes drift now back to the cedar, and the more active fir next to it.

I realize there is likely a spiritual analolgy here, only I don’t write this for that reason. It is just my wandering eye this morning. My fingers are numb, it is cold.

A new bug is biting this morning, or rather an old annoying bug which feels less annoying. I had a look at Greek this morning. Just a look. A look and a thought that it feels right and good to have further looks, regular gazes in fact.

I’ve never been one to enjoy language studies. This distinguishes me from being a real intellectual, I realize. This realization is one of the two points which helped steer me away from further academia at this point… the other being my distaste for politics and aware that half of academic life is politics, if not more.

But, I’ve always been good at languages. When I put in the time, which is what I don’t generally want to put in. In seminary I had to study Greek and Hebrew. Greek I know better because I studied it as an undergrad, only it has again drifted away because that whole time studying thing. When I have a use, I use it. Like when I was leading a ministry. I studied greek every week, translating Philippians as we went through it. It’s just not fun, nor a hobby — which I think is a mark of a true academic.

Something has bitten me, or at least maybe I see vague purpose again. Knowing the original languages has a wonderful aspect, for what we read in English is not always what was said, for interpretation is a major part of translation. This is especially true in Hebrew. So, I consider also getting my hebrew out again as well. That would require more grammar studies, for my taste of Hebrew has been less and more distant.

Part of this, I realize, is my own drive towards understanding, a drive mixed with an inherent passion for independence. I want to study what I want to study, for my own reasons, not to impress someone who can get me a better recommendation. Too much learning has limited itself to academia in our era, I think. That is a vocation, not a possessor of knowledge. The church has always been led by knowledgable people outside of the halls. And, as Peter Stuhlmacher said once in a statement which struck me as strong as Antony overhearing the story of the rich young ruler, “The salvation of the church will not come through academia.”

This, though, does not make an excuse for anti-intellectualism. Rather, I think intellectualism needs to find expressions outside the academy, where the knowledge can be pursued for its own sake rather than for vocational advancement. What can a scholar do if not being weighed down by the need to impress, yet still retain the same degree of purpose and passion for quality? I don’t know. It’s a picture we do not see much in our era.

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