The Situation

The wheel-within-a-wheel of EzekielSince tomorrow begins July, Margaret and I are at an inflection point in our dealing with our uncertain future. We had hoped to get a job in the Oxford area — I’d make a smashing college chaplain, but any clergy job with housing, perhaps house-for-duty, would solve many problems for us. I’m agreeable to being an assistant or part time. Sadly, none of this has materialised.

I’m assuming that anyone reading here knows about me at least moderately well: I’m a priest of the Church of England, have been teaching in theological higher education for more than thirty years, have written or edited ten or a dozen books, active participant in discussions around technology, media, and education (involvement with digital technology beginning from my undergraduate years in the late 70s), having held congregation-facing responsibilities in a half dozen or so parish or cathedral settings, a pretty good preacher (de gustibus, of course, but I have receipts), and have been engaged in pastoral support of undergraduates (and older adults) for closing in on forty years. I’ve organised multi-author book projects, education workshops, and academic conference sections.

But at this point, after having been looking for a next post for more than a year, nothing has worked out. We have to move out from our current address in September. Housing costs in Oxford are among the highest in the UK, but we’ve lived here ten years, longer than we’ve lived any other single place in our lives together, and if we can stay here we won’t need to start over making new friends, getting to know the place, becoming known to others. On the other hand, housing costs in Oxford are brutal, and our pension resources are modest. We can, of course, move out from Oxford if there’s an opportunity that would give us a good reason.

So here we are (and won’t be much longer). Neither of us has a valid driver’s licence, and I’d really rather not start up with cars again: the idea of having to pay for a car, petrol, upkeep, and insurance just in order to have a job — in 2023, in the middle of an energy crisis and catastrophic climate change — seems ludicrous.

If you’re aware of a position that might address some of our needs for the future, we’d love to know about it. I can’t promise that we’ll take up what you propose, cos we’re balancing a zillion divergent considerations, but after more than a year of applying, it would be great to just settle somewhere and do our work.

Morning Rain

It’s lovely and bright out now, but this morning when I got up to run the skies were grey and a steady light rain was falling. I went ahead, 13°, somewhat stiff and heavy (I’m still working off all that curry and cake from Tuesday night), but two solid miles at a stolid pace.

I’ve been working on an open-access revised edition of my Greek textbook, and yesterday I came across a sentence in the exercises that bore no relation whatever to stage that student-readers would have gotten to. Now, to be fair, it’s late in the book, and pulling up exercises is among the more tedious aspects of compiling the book, but that misjudged exercise sentence both indicated that I had been exactly this worn down when I compiled the book the first time, and also that I’m getting near the end of the initial assembly of the book, short of reformatting for page fit and proofreading. The, on to James.


Woke up early this morning, as there was sleep-talking happening, then one of the dogs barked at the other, and I started thinking (which is bad for sleep).Got up and ran, a pleasantly fresh 11°, pollen, very light overcast, a bit stiff but not fasciitis-bound (this is interesting to me, cos I walked almost five miles yesterday — well, three miles plus morning run), at an adequate but undistinguished pace. We’re going to *Asteroid City* this afternoon, working on my Greek textbook till then.

So Much Happening Under Appearances

So, I decided not to alternate days; my heel felt fine this morning, so I went ahead and ran my miles (16°, clear, mild pollen, revellers returning from their college balls in gowns and tuxes, or in improvised walking-home attire, limber, good pace). I walked to church also, and will go in to the Oxford ordinations this afternoon, so I’ll probably be sore tomorrow. Still, I long for just not thinking about how my foot feels.

Yesterday, we learned that our once-neighbour Lai-King Leong had died. We lived beside Lai-King and Leong Seow for our five years in Princeton, and they exemplified friendliness and collegiality in every way; Lai-King was as sweet as anyone I’ve known. Our hearts ache for Leong, and for all who loved and knew Lai-King — the pangs of death cut all the more deeply when we lose so lovely a friend, and as we see and share Leong’s grief. Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

On Again

My heel was feeling better this morning, so I took my morning run as usual. 16°, light overcast, so much pollen, eventually limbered up so that the last half of the run went satisfactorily, overall at an unambitious pace. Maybe will alternate days till my heel feels better.

Pushing, and Not Pushing

When I woke up this morning, my plantar fascia sent me a clear message that today was not a day for running. To be fair, I put five miles on it yesterday, between the good run in the morning and a hasty trip to the Royal Oak in the afternoon; no foot tissue was loafing because of cancelling my morning run. I’d have liked to capitalise on yesterday’s good day, but…

Ths afternoon, into town to check my mail, retype the Greek part of my Greek textbook in anticipation of releasing an Open Access version of it someday, and rehabbing my recalcitrant heel.

Personal Best-ish

13°, MIST (according to the Home Office, though I didn’t see any), pleasant all around, heel grumpy but not painful, knees creaky at the start but quickly limber, and a very good pace. All around, one of my best morning runs. ( /shakes own hand )

For Freedom

Pleasantly relaxed start to the day, 13° I think, unambitious pace, clear but pollen-y, two miles. Margaret and I went to Rick’s for breakfast, and when we returned I took up some useless tasks, then modulated into working on my open-access revised edition of my Greek textbook. Calm, steady, satisfying.

My stressors still weigh heavily on me, but I can set them aside for a few minutes if I’m doing something (useless) that addresses neurological priorities. ‘Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’

Useless Theology

(No cheap ‘tautology’ jibes!)

As I think more and more about being forced into retirement, I am inclined to ponder things I’d do if I had the time. One would be writing up my thoughts on ‘useless theology’, theological contemplation and praxis without the intrusionb of the felt need for things to be useful. The fact that uselessness is harder than it looks, harder than you’d think it would be, begins to underscore the value of such work. Self-improvement? Nuh-uh. Productivity? Get thee behind me! Edification? Only penitently, as a side effect.

There’s a kinship with ‘gift’ here, but more specifically focused on the freedom that arises when one begins to do things not so as to effect an end, but because that’s what presents itself to be done. (With a hat tip to Sir Edmund, one might call it ‘Hillary-ous’ theology.) In the much-missed Game Neverending, there was a sub-game, an internal game, called ‘Flow Tending’. It involved only moving objects as they passed in front of you at varying speeds and various trajectories, so as to avoid turbulence or collisions; there was no ‘winning’ (as there was no winning the GNE), but flow tending was a marvellous exercise in tuning in to a state of affairs and chilling. Useless theology doesn’t aim at precision, at magisterium, at ortho- or hetero- or any other doxy, but at cultivating the capacity to adore God.

So in a self-contradictory mode, this will be a productive goal at which I’ll aim when I retire.

Not Miles, But Centimetres

I’ll give this high marks as a genuine, high-quality rainstorm. Not just a rainy day; not a flood. Just a good, heavy, soaking rain. No miles this morning.

Our back garden, saturated with rain.

(Later: Settled down to a regular Oxford grey overcast.)

Icumen In

Well! That’s another academic year in the books. Farewell to my dear students at Regent’s and Oriel — maybe see you in Michaelmas at Oriel? I have some bits and bobs left to tidy up, but the students have gone home, the rate of meetings tapers to near non-existence, and I can get out of bed when I want (not that anyone was compelling me to rise at 5:00 beforehand). Summer is here, the pollen count is very high, days are long, and there are many lovely things about the world.

16°, eyes streaming from pollen, pace adequate, two more miles. Some things just go on…