Claiming Life

Good late evening from the acre,

I am actually just getting home from school and I have to leave for NYC in my morning at 6:00 a.m., which means I will be getting up around 5:00. It is 10:58, so it is going to be a quick night. Tonight my Foundations classes and I watched the movie, Finding Forrester as a way for them to consider the idea of “claiming your education”. I am continually amazed by the number of people I meet who seem to go through their lives just rolling “tumbleweed-like” controlled by the external forces that affect them. What is more unfortunate is most have little to realization that it is happening to them. I know that I have been guilty of this at times in my life. I also know there have been times where I aware of the outside forces, but felt that I have no control over those outside sources nor the ability to stand up the way I would like to do. I also know that some will argue that we always have a choice. The answer to that is technically the answer is “yes, we do.” However, when the consequence (that word again) is more extreme or malevolent than what we desire, we have less power over that choice than we want. More accurately, we do not have as much free will over the entire situation than we might believe.

Good morning from one of seats of a chartered bus with 47 #COBLLC students on our way to a full day in NYC, a day including time at the UN, time at The Met, a bit of time in Battery Park, Times Square, and finally on/off Broadway where we will see a play starring James Earl Jones. By the time we get home it will be midnight. I am hoping to sneak away to do some work while students are doing whatever they are today. I am trying to feverishly work on a presentation and do qualitative research on data for that presentation. I wanted to have more done on the analysis than I do. I should have probably tried to learn the program I did not even know existed. I know, sounds impossible, but what it means is I could have been more effective and thought ahead a bit more carefully. Of course, there is the issue that I did/do have other things on my plate than my fall research. That being said, this might be some of the best scholarly work I have done since my dissertation and that is exciting. I am reminded of my ex-wife’s shock and consternation that I got paid to go to school at one point because of some of the things we worked on. Hard to believe that a group of text messages might be the basis for my research agenda for the foreseeable future. I can see the communication theory issues which are the current focus. I can see a linguistic/cultural possibility because of the integration of Spanish and English and as a rhetorical scholar, to consider issues of rhetorical practice is always a possibility. In each case, it allows me the chance to learn about and reflect upon what has happened.

On one of the buildings on campus there is a concrete mantel that proclaims (and rightly so, I believe) “wisdom is the fruit of reflection.” I remember seeing it one of my very first days on campus as I walked from my apartment up to campus for new faculty orientation. Even now, each time I see it, I am compelled to think about the implications for myself. How do I go about reflecting critically about what I have become and how that person has made some difference in other’s lives. It is what Luther referred as understanding vocation. It is rather sad that the term “vocation” now means some sort of schooling for those not capable or interested in college. Vocation in Luther’s sense meant that you understood whatever “Deinem Arbeit”, “Su trabajo” is, you understand your daily “tasks” actually benefit those around you. Too many of us see our present or future work as something that is merely a means to an end, and that end Is our bank accounts or our retirement IRAs or 401ks. If I am going to be honest in my reflection, I sometimes wonder if the reason I see myself more vocationally, as doing something fundamentally efficacious, is because of the nature of the things I have done. It is an integral part of that position. I would like to claim that is it in part who I am also. However, when the basic nature of that position required/requires one to care for others, it seems I have the deck stacked in my favor. The other night I took a quiz on another social networking site and the two-word descriptor used was “selflessly caring”. That was a bit flattering because I do not do it as selflessly has I wish I did. That has been part of my own reflection as of late. Again, intentions and realities.

The semester is half over. I am stunned by how quickly things are moving. I am stunned thy we are almost through another calendar year. It has been a year of learning and of changes. While I believe Lydia will make it through another calendar year, I cannot imagine her making it to 91. Of course, she has already surprised me more times than I have fingers. I have always believed that I was placed in Lydia’s life to serve as a counter-balance to her pessimism. Every morning, I would come and fix breakfast for her. She would ask me, (imagine the strongest Österreich accent possible) “Michael, wie geht’s?” I would respond with “Ich tue fein, Lydia; ich habe keine Beschwerden.” She would either scowl, dismiss me with a hand motion and scowl, or perhaps merely respond “blah,blah, blah.” She could not fathom such optimism; I could not imagine such pessimism when I saw what she had accomplished. I will be headed back there soon. While I rue the drive, I will make it again. Actually, I am going to try to get back to California in both November and January. The November trip will be quick, but I am hoping January excursion will be a bit longer than my August trip. I called Marco and Belinda last night to set up the next trip. I also want to get up to Houghton to help one of my senior students get into graduate school there. I also need to get to Salt Lake City in December/January. More frequent flier miles. Meetings earlier this week provided opportunities for more work with the program. I think I will be busy, but that work will help the program and students and that is what matters.

Well, we are almost to the Lincoln Tunnel. It will be a busy day, but I know that students will both experience and learn today. I was able to get the three ACE students able to come with us today. They are all exceptional students. I need to find out if they got into the briefing at the UN. I have been reflecting on the previous excursions. Each one has taught me something. Each one has provided a different memory. The first trip we were in Rockefeller Center and I saw Bill O’Reilly, not that I am any sort of fan, but I was sitting a few feet from him. Seeing my first Broadway production was quite amazing (it was Wicked, which a good first choice). The second trip, I actually spent some time alone and that was enjoyable merely exploring Times Square on my own. The auctioning of a poster at the production of Memphis was certainly an experience. Last year’s trip was memory was former students were now mentors (the same is the case now). I am missing Mariah and her boundless capacity to take charge and keep that beautiful smile on her face. It is also sad for me that Dr. Usry has missed another trip because he has been so instrumental in envisioning this experience for students. We are in Manhattan crawling our way to the UN. It should be again another chance to create a new page and claim the opportunity to live my life. As I am writing the traffic in Manhattan might make us late for our scheduled time at the UN. Time for revision perhaps.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

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