Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Blind Side

Tuesday’s in the Chapel
April 6, 2010

William Hurlbut when he was on campus for the Veritas Forum shared his notion that: “The central challenge of our age becomes the search for an integrated understanding of human life that draws on both our scientific knowledge and our spiritual traditions while providing the foundation for progress, global cooperation and the defense of human dignity.”

In my own way I have been grappling with that challenge for as long as I can remember and Hollywood has once again come through by helping me understand what I have been struggling with. The other day I finally watched The Blind Side with my daughter and wife. I had not wanted to see the film convinced that the movie would not do justice to the book. Besides, I thought Sandra Bullock was a light weight as an actress. I was wrong on both counts. Bullock deserved her Oscar and the movie is a good film. It finished a story begun for me long ago and in so doing answered a question that has long haunted me.

Let me tell you the story. In 1945 my family moved to Memphis; we lasted only a few months and I never went to school there. That happened because of a church business meeting. My grandfather was the minister of a large, downtown church and at a business meeting of the church the issue of the janitor’s house came up. It was infested with rats and the business meeting concluded that it was good enough for niggers. Dad concluded that was not good enough. He did not want his children to grow up in such an environment and we returned to California. I have always been grateful.

The Blind Side helped me learn how the story turned out. Michael Oher, the central figure in the movie, is a casualty of the Memphis School System. That system was decimated by the good Christian people of Memphis who created the segregationist academies profiled in the movie. Good people can do terrible things when the only thing they feel is fear. Christians ought to be able to surmount their fear, but often they cannot. In Memphis they couldn’t. The Blind Side is inspirational if your God is football and the money that can be made playing sports. Otherwise it is an unvarnished tragedy.

I grew up thinking that the influence of Christians in a community would make the environment better. The Blind Side reminds me that that is not necessarily so. Certainly the Tuohy family made a difference in Michael’s life, but their Christianity is muted at best. The only overt appeal to Christian values is made by the football coach who is really concerned with his own job and his football team. The Tuohy family made their contributions because they were able and willing to go against the system. “.... the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:8)

I may be naïve, but I still hope that the presence of values, values that put people first, values that commit us to the long term good of society and not the short term ends of the moment, will prevail. I take heart in the recent health care debate, not because a flawed bill was passed, but because I like to see our leaders do what is right even when it is not popular. I say that knowing that some will argue that that is what W did when he invaded Iraq and I will counter by arguing that war is always easier to wage than peace. What I wish for the future is that we can find the courage to wage peace and I am grateful to Hollywood for reminding us all what happens when we lack courage.

Robert M.Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ecstasy in Living

I find ecstasy in living, the mere sense of living is joy enough
~Emily Dickinson

These weekly reflections on Tuesday morning asks us what about tomorrow?

So I asked myself in preparing to write for today – so what about tomorrow?

I think about tomorrow through the possibility of today

This came to light one day on my way into work on the T….

As like every T rider, you read, sleep, put your headphones on, zone (or meditate) out, this particular day I was reading (for pleasure). When I read, I can also ‘zone out’ and intuitively know when it is about ‘that time’ for my stop. Well this day, as I was reading I, all of a sudden lifted my head from the book (before my stop was near) and heard a conversation of a pair standing to my left---I am not sure why I heard them, yet as I went back to my reading – This twosome said aloud what I then read in my book…..Of course this was a very odd experience, but what made it a message and more of a powerful experience was the words shared, “when one door closes, a window opens” This reminded me of the power and possibility of each day.

Allow me to share with you my joy in the day

I wake each morning – warm under quilt and a light on as I pull the chain on the lamp or pull the shade of the window, I step into slippers (a funny pair of shoes – just for morning & again later that night) – rubbing the blur from my eyes and my mouth wide open to capture oxygen to fill my lungs – i wake from a dream place to begin at another dream place– a place of living. I turn on the faucet for water, turn it again for hot water – splash my face and a reach for a dry, clean towel to pat off the morning dew – I push the button or light the stove for caffeinated water that smells so good and feel so satisfying as it travels down

– simple life habits – simple life tasks – all with the lens of appreciation.

Valuing life, valuing abilities, valuing capabilities – our lives – living life as a dream to help put the difficult days behind.

Friends who support us family who loves us work who pays us Legs & cars (and public transportation) who transport us smiles that greet us, birds that sing to us

Spring is coming, cold days behind – be present

See my daily tasks as joy in the living
I dream of the day that each of us appreciates each moment on earth.

And that is reflected in our practice.

Smile to strangers – pick up litter- take baby steps and leaps of faith
Watch the crocus peeking up through the ground, smell the fresh brewed coffee – feel those warm slippers – share laughter with colleagues – start the day with reflection ~

dream deeply, live simply
Donna Denoncourt
Associate Dean, Residential Life

Reading for the Morning

Book 1: The Twelfth Chapter


IT IS good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men.

When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest need is God, without Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands fully that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found on earth.

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis