I got to walk some extra miles yesterday, dashing about point to point to connect with Marika Rose from Winchester, Anthony Reddie and Willie James Jennings here at Regent’s, and then Cory Doctorow at Blackwell’s. It was… a day of abundance, including a terrific conversation with a PG student who has developed the dangerous misapprehension that my research might be worth her attention.
This morning, weary legs, chilly air (6°), light overcast, two miles nonetheless. Tonight I’ll meet up with Steve and Melinda, who will have spent the afternoon with MArgaret while I was teaching.
The last two days have been similar: clear skies, chilly temps (6° and 7°), though this morning I had a bad case of heavy legs and a slower pace, while Sunday I was more limber and ran to a more favourable time. Another day, another two miles.
Saturday, I neglected to mention, Margaret and I had a leisurely breakfast with our griend from grad-school days, Willie James Jennings. Willie and I entered Duke in the same year, during years in which Duke admitted large groups of doctoral students. In contemporary terms, there’s much to criticise about that scheme, but it made for splendid, intoxicating debates and conversations in the grad lounge and in seminars. Stan Hauerwas’s premise was the we would learn best when we learned from one another, and that worked out pretty well. Willie and I were in the theology seminar for two years, in Ken Surin’s seminar once, and maybe another class I’m not remembering now (and I used to attend the theology grad seminar as well, though I was an interloper from biblical studies). In those days, American theology was in the beginning, perhaps the preparatory, stages of a range of changes: some convulsive, some evolutionary, some retrievals, but all with a sense of vigour and exhilarating range, and among the many who emerged from those years as prominent theologians on the US scene, I kept a watchful eye on Willie as a bellwether of the convergence of good, grounded sense and the expectation that a change was coming. We took part in some fascinating disagreements, some especially valuable sympathies.
When Margaret began her doctoral work fifteen years or so later, Willie was working in admin at Duke. In a field overcrowded with status and egos, he toiled with students to help them get through the various struggles with which seminary training confronts us. I imagine, though I haven’t pried into this, the intricate forms in which institutional and structural racism subtly permeated a wealthy university in the American South must have played a significant part of his role, and as is often the case, the administrative bearer of that burden was not so much appreciated for their negotiating fraught demands and injuries as they were neglected as the messenger with unwelcome news. It looked to us as though Willie didn’t get a chance to flourish as a theologian in his own right; for all the marvellous strengths Duke afforded to its students and staff, harmony and mutual respect did not rank highly enough (especially for women and scholars of colour). When I was a visiting professor there, we saw Willie from time to time, but he was always, always busy.
At that time, Willie had begun to attract attention as a leading figure in a new generation of Black theology; he and Jay Carter stood to represent a powerhouse of Black theology, and Duke was the place to study. For whatever reason — I’m not enough of an insider to give a well-sourced account, though I can make some plausible guesses — both Jay and Willie left Duke around 2010, so that instead of entering the twenty-first century with a staff poised to confront the recrudescence of white supremacist backwash with two front-line theological stars, Duke needed to scramble to salvage some measure of credibility with scholars who care about theology in ways not defined and limited by white scholarship. Willie moved to Yale Divinity School, where he’s understood and appreciated as the gentle, profound, critical theologian and mentor that he didn’t get a chance to be at Duke. He’s giving the Bampton Lectures here at Oxford — I’ll link to the first two below, and the he’ll deliver the second two tomorrow.
(I should add that Jay’s thriving at Indiana, and he has a new book coming out soon if it’s not already out, dealing with race and expression [my characterisation], a mode of religious study, practice, and resistance that emerges from colonial, captialist, and of course racist models for what ‘religion’ might be. I’m eager to read it.)
Anyway, here’s to Willie and the Bampton Lectures and Yale Div and collegial coffee and the future of Black theology!
8°, clear skies (sun shining directly down Howard Street so that I had to stare downward at the road), heavy legs, but a decent pace and two good miles.
I’m working from home this morning as Margaret has work to do down at Ripon College Cuddesdon and the ladies need oversight. An electrician will come by in the early afternoon to make sure we’re behaving well electrically. It’s nothing but excitement here on James Street.
I note these runs not because there is the least little thing that’s interesting about them, but because that practice keeps me coming back to the site and typing something in. My hope — futile so far — is to shift my impulse-to-scribble from FB and Twitter back to the blog where it belongs.
Speaking of running, 8°, mostly clear, moderately comfortable, two miles, decent pace. On my way, I saw a fox with a distinctly unhealthy appearance,
and an unusual inclination to stand its ground and eyeball me as I passed (I doubled back to take these photos). I see healthier foxes moderately often; I’m not sure what contributes to this creature’s colour and thinness.
Yesterday afternoon I recalled the advertisements for Archway, our favourite local brand of biscuits when I was a youngster in Pittsburgh. I looked googled the company slogan in hopes of rediscovering the specific adverts I had in mind, the ones Robert Drosnes used to mock by pulling a face similar to those of the grinning children in the clip, and by quoting their strapline: ‘Looky, looky, looky / Archway Homestyle Cookies…’ Probably for the best, these have vanished into the abyss of memory.
6°, clear skies, my joints were achy at first but loosened up as I went, decent pace, another two miles. Every morning I ask myself, ‘Shall I give myself a day off running?’ and every day I say, ‘No, you’ll miss a day when you go up to Scotland, it might be raining someday, you should run every day that circumstances don’t prevent it.’ So another day, another two miles.
I missed writing yesterday’s morning report to the effect that I did indeed finish my two miles, in 11° and clear skies, with comfortable legs — which led me to the mistaken apprehension that we were in for a lovely day. Breakfasted with M., marked essays, tutorial at Oriel, lunch at Oriel, and started off to Regent’s for a quick look-in on my way to the NT Seminar with the brilliant Matt Novenson at Keble.
Sadly, as I left Oriel the light rain that had been descending gently felt a ripple of precipitative muscle and decided that ‘downpour’ suited its mood better. I was drenched to my skin. My shoes and socks were doused; I’d have liked to peel them off, but I’d have had to put them back on to walk to Keble and home, so that wasn’t on. I sat there, trousers dripping, feet squooshing, until at the end of the afternoon I made my way back home and changed clothes. I’ll tell you, that’s a kind of bliss: from clinging, sodden clothes to clean, dry clothes. A-a-a-a-a-ah.
Then to Billy Bragg’s concert at the O2 Academy up the street from us (a convenience we will never experience again, and a great source of joy). Uncle Bill was in fine form, with a set that skewed toward his early work, but mostly fresh political banter and earnest encouragement to keep doing what we can, without cynicism, in a vigilant resistance to fascism in all its forms.
I went to bed with tinnitus reminding me the reason I don’t go to concerts very often, slept like a very tired log, and ran this morning: 9°, clear, heavy heavy legs, so a modest pace, two more miles.
The Orioles won again last night. I won’t feel confident about the team till we have sturdy, reliable starting pitching, but it’s weirdly exciting to check the result every morning and to see them winning two out of three games, after so long when they were losing four out of five (so it seemed).
I liked the Jam and Style Council back in the 70s and 80s, but in retrospect I think it difficult to overestimate the (often unacknowledged) importance of Weller (et al.)’s voice as a sign of trust that we can do better, together….
And we’re going to see Billy Bragg tomorrow night…
This morning I caught a glimpse of what regular official runner-type people evidently experience: the temperature had climbed back up to a more comfortable 9°, very light cloud (I could see the sun rise over Headington), a respectable pace with no significant discomfort, and two miles to get home for a pleasant cup of coffee. Well done, morning. The ‘running’ part still doesn’t especially appeal to me, but it serves its purpose.
I don’t usually talk much about my weight, which is only a side effect of being fitter in general, but my current plateau hovers a little over 12 stone, between 77 and 78 kg (169 and 172 lb). I’d like to hammer it down to 12 stone even, 75 kg, which would approximate my maximum undergraduate weight (though it would be very differently distributed he said, looking down at his waist) — but for now, that’s a very satisfying side effect.