3 August 2014 § 3 Comments
Danger: this post is emotionally explicit.
Since last Friday, I have been in a strange physical and emotional mood that would not dispel itself. No one wants to read of another’s despair, especially when it involves headaches, fatigue, enduring construction work, and panic, so instead you may read about the lovely ways in which it may be lifted.
My parents, after spending their thirtieth anniversary (happy anniversary, O Ancient Ones) in the Siberia of North America—also known as the France of North America—returned on Friday as relaxed and happy as clams. I have never understood that phrase. What if clams are actually depressed? We had pizza for dinner, which was acceptable because the crust was super thin and spinach was involved, and then went out for ice cream, i.e., the actual dinner. Perhaps human interaction after all of my Durham friends absconding was comforting, but it also may have been the ice cream.
In any case, Saturday dawned, except not really since the sun hid all day and the clouds cried all day. It was perfect, since I ended up working for eight hours yet not even completing half of one translation file. My ability to think in anything but incredibly formal Afrikaans of the Department of the Interior (Afrikaans: Departement van Binnelandse Sake, or the Department of BS, appropriate for the insanity that regularly transpired) is fading. These few weeks of working have been a further lesson in how ambitious I am re: how much work I believe I can complete. This is a character flaw that guarantees failure yet also guarantees the absence of regret where effort is concerned.
Waking up this morning felt like crawling out of the pit of despair (see also: The Princess Bride; don’t worry, I wasn’t actually tortured or dead), but that is usually a sign that going to church is actually the best thing to do. I braided my hair, pinned it up (poor students have no need for haircuts), did some work, and received a hug from my favourite usher upon arrival.
It was such a good service, centered round the Old Testament lesson of Jacob wrestling with God . . .
(Aside: can you even imagine how difficult that would be? Does Jacob get points for actually being stronger than Samson?—because he should.)
. . . and the New Testament lesson of the fish and the loaves, which actually go together quite well (the OT and NT lessons, yet also fish and bread). Suspense of compulsion to apply analysis to every element of religion while keeping alive the intellect is necessary for the sort of worship that leaves one rejuvenated. I suggest that you pause in your reading of this meandering diary note and sing, to the tune of Candler, all of the verses of Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown. You will see why Isaac Watts thought so much of the words—convicting and comforting, questioning and reflecting, wrestling and resting.
Afterwards, I remained to listen to the end of the Postlude, Brewer’s Marche Héroïque, and a couple who had slipped into the pew in front of me during the middle of the processional hymn who were also listening struck up a conversation with me. The wife asked me whether I was a Duke student, which is a significant improvement to the usual question of which high school I currently attend. They discovered that I am soon to begin work in a lab, I discovered that they are both physicians, and then they took me to lunch.
They asked so many questions while eating their eggs florentine (another reason I like them), and it was refreshing to talk about South Africa and the intersections of history and medicine and to listen to their experiences and thoughts. Many thoughts that have been captive in my mind found company in their thoughts, and it was exciting to find people from whom I can learn. One of them teaches in the medical school at Duke and has a curious, excited view of the medical humanities that matches mine.
While sadness may be alleviated by aspirin, extra allergy medicine, and strawberry crepes and peach blossom white tea for brunch, it is far more likely to fade from singing good hymns, praying, taking communion, being blessed by surprise kindness from people, and generally forgetting oneself.