Russell and Duenes

Some Musings: October 24, 2012

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There is something soul-smothering about constantly reading law or about the law. As Pascal said, each one of us has a God-shaped vacuum in our soul, which can only be filled by God Himself. Law is a cheap substitute, and can be a deadening one at that. It promises to be not only exciting, but also a kind of savior. This constant immersion in law and legal texts tends to breed a kind of arrogance, as Harvard Law Professor, William Stuntz, wrote, giving us the false notion “that smart people like us (us lawyers, us judges, and especially us law professors) can always solve [problems with other people’s behavior] — that if we can only get our hands on the levers of power, we can manipulate them so that everything will turn our just right.” Reading law, writing about law, researching law, discussing law, from morning until evening, creates a kind of insular, constrictive existence. No wonder drinking to excess seems to be the remedy of choice for so many in the profession.

I just read a piece by someone who took great pains to insinuate that the public schools are rife with Islamophobia, but whose thesis was that we need more religious dialogue in the public schools to combat the alleged Islamophobia. “Hey, you’re a bunch of hate-mongering Islamophobes, and now, let the dialogue begin!” That’s rich.

Related to the last point, one ought not wonder why there’s so precious little religious dialogue in public schools. It’s because none of the “dialogue” can ever have the discovery of truth as it’s goal. Grade school students may not be hip to everything, but they’re human beings, and if you tell them in a thousand different ways – explicitly as well as implicitly – that the only goal of their engaging in “religious dialogue” is going to be “learning about other people’s faiths,” then there’s not going to be much interest over the long haul. Life’s too short, and too important, to just engage in a bunch of meaningless “fact-finding” about Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and if you get around to it, Christianity. No, God’s image-bearers want to know if these things are true, and if you can’t discuss the truth-status of any of these various religions – and in public schools, you can’t – then the dialogue is going to be pretty unappealing, and scarce. We were made for worship, not information input.

As I’ve been out driving around Topeka, I’ve happened upon a law school buddy of mine who is out jogging. I’ve seen him while we’re both waiting for lights at an intersection, so I honk my horn to get his attention and wave. To no avail. He’s got the ipod ear-buds going, and so he doesn’t hear my horn and thus, doesn’t see me; and I think to myself that it’s an opportunity lost. Sure, it’s no big deal. If he had been able to hear my horn and we’d waved to each other, it would only constitute a small gesture. But it also makes me think about the fact that we can live practically on top of each other in cities, and yet be strangers to one another. It seems that even the small opportunities to make relational connections would add to our sense of belonging to one another as human beings, but increasingly, we’re able to define and demarcate our own private spaces, and our worlds have become small, and our relationships shriveled.

I love this time of year in the Midwest. It’s not just that the leaves are falling off the trees, but it’s the wondrous experience of driving or walking down the road with leaves swirling around you like snowflakes in a storm. The clacking of the leaves together as the Autumn winds pick up here in Kansas gives one a tangible sense that one season is ending and another beginning. I rarely had this experience in California.

You don’t think about how valuable a good and trusted friend is until you don’t have one. I miss many things about the Bay Area, but the thing I miss the most has nothing to do with the Bay Area. It’s the friends. They could not be replaced, nor should they be, but I have yet to find any friendships here which could be added to their kind. My heart counsels patience, as I know my good friends in the Bay Area did not become so overnight, but it sure leaves a void within me. Perhaps what it most leaves is an absence of laughter. The absence of laughter is a loss I had not consciously considered, and a greater loss than I had imagined.



Written by Michael Duenes

October 24, 2012 at 8:21 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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