Saturday, January 28, 2012

quick hit: alissa m. goudswaard in perspectives

My aunt just sent me the latest issue of Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought (December 2011) with a note to check out Alissa M. Goudswaard's essay "Everything That Rises," which reflects on aspects of her experience at the Oregon Extension in her junior year of college.
My first taste of bread handmade from yeast starter came the evening after the first day of class. I was reading about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with my cabin-mates when there was a knock on our door. It was John, one of our professors, a white-haired man who tied fishing flies as he talked to us about Derrida. He brought Cosette, the canine darling of the campus, and a towel-covered platter ... "I've come to feed you," John said (8).
Like so many of the personal reflections on the Oregon Extension I've listened to, and read, Alissa's account includes struggles to convey the inner revelations experienced while at Lincoln, and also some measure of insecurity as she worries that her own revelations -- her own personal journey -- somehow fail to measure up to those of her cohort:
Sarah came back to the cabin in tears one evening. She'd mailed her father a paper she wrote about Thich Nhat Hanh and Buddhist philosophy. She was excited about it, but her father was not. "I feel like I'm losing you," he had told her. "I feel like you're losing your hold on Jesus." "But I'm not!" she told us tearfully ... I celebrated with them, and waited for my own revelation. I waited for my dreams and visions, but nothing worked for me. I became increasingly restless (10).
In such an intense environment, it seems difficult for even the best-intentioned faculty and students to keep the momentum of majority culture from rolling forward, and sweeping everyone along into a group conversation that, inevitably, leaves some to feel they've missed the boat -- failed, in some way, to experience the revelation. I wouldn't go so far as to say such a dynamic is inevitable, but it does seem a difficult one to counter.