Distractions and Other Gifts

I’m two weeks into my new semester and, like I did in the Fall, I’ve already spent a lot of class-time in Regent’s chapel. Its entire right side is solidly made up of windows which look into the main atrium of the school and out through to the courtyard as well. It’s wall on wall of glass facing out into the slatey Pacific sky. There are blinds, but they’re never closed, and you can see anyone coming in or out of either of the building’s two north entrances while you sit in class.

I watch everyone who comes and goes. I can’t help it. It could be during the long lecture hours on Wednesday morning, or afternoon CTC, or Tuesday morning chapel service itself–everyone who’s ever taught me in that space probably thinks I’m incurably rude. And maybe I am. But watching a young mother with already-full hands and some hefty stroller struggle through the heavy door till someone runs to catch it for her and she mouths her thanks—this is eternally riveting to me. It’s a tiny, gentle drama that never gets old. Both parties go their opposite directions, and I’m left scribbling notes on Christianity and culture and thinking about small, habitual acts of generosity which make doorways sacred. My favorites, though, are the people who come through those doors alone, which are most of them. Sometimes I know their names, occasionally I even know where they’re coming from, but for a flash as they pass through those narrow doors I know them all, every soul. Witnessing those private moments of entrance and exit, ducking in and out of the rain, leaving work behind or heading towards it, concentration or distraction marked upon a forehead—I hear a heartbeat every time. Then, content, I shift my gaze back to a slide about Alexander the Great and the intertestamental period.

On top of all this people-watching I’ve been doing, I have a complaint I’ve been making. It’s the nicest complaint I’ve ever had. I’m in a class this term called Christian Imagination, about the arts, and everytime I try to do the reading for that class I get too excited and have to stop and write. In two weeks’ time I’ve produced three-and-a-quarter poems and four pages of a novel. And now this blog entry. It’s getting out of hand.

So, friends, to cope with these problems, this afternoon I dropped a class just to give myself more space. I’ll get those credits later. When there are people all around me how can I not watch them? And when there are poems all around me how can I not write them?

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