At the beginning of the year, I did something that I had been wanting to do for a long time… I quit Facebook.
…And I have been resisting replying “and with your spirit.” Then I thought that “and also with you” would be better. #catholicnerdproblems
A brief note between appointments to say that I made my deadline and the draft is not as terrible as I thought it looked when my nose was to the grindstone. I’ve still got some ways to go until my literature review is complete. Mostly reading about the ‘Post-Secular’ turn in International Relations.
I avoided the Dunce Cap and I am quite pleased. It forced me over a very important hurdle of writing something substantial. There is a paralysis that one gets when it hits them that they are writing a book and expose their thoughts, ideas and passions to an audience that will not always be kind. Its a real form of vulnerability that can be genuinely scary to face.
First, I know I have been slack with the writing on the blog. I’ve been buried in paper and Scrivener trying to force some momentum on the literature review now supplemented by an impending deadline. For it to be serious (or I won’t actually write anything) I’ve requested my supervisor enforce a consequence.
For most people who come into a PhD after taking a number of detours, that acceptance letter feels like a dream. You’re side-hustle, hobby and passion becomes a career.
This is an awesome feeling, it is a real sense of purpose and serenity, a sense that is sustained even in the midst of fits of self-doubt and frustration. But… when your hobby becomes your career that consumes your every waking moment, you’ve lost something too.
Hobbies are important. Leisure is essential to who we are as human beings. The more intellectual, abstract and pressured you’re day job is, the more you need a hobby that consists of manual labour, that uses your body and hands and generates a simple, tangible result.
This hobby also needs to be disconnected, i.e. non-involved in screens. This is not to say leisure cannot be found in things like video games or reading a novel on kindle, but for someone who reads and writes all day (mostly onscreen) my eyes and my mind need a break from the stimulation of the screen.
I’ve always loved being outside and gardening, but I live in an apartment with one small window box, so that is something that I will have to explore later down the track. What I have also been fascinated by is baking, especially bread.
Now that my hobby has become my career, I have instinctively begun exploring the art of baking bread. Baking is working really well for me because it is physical, it produces tangible results that I can eat, but it also requires being left alone.
The fact that I need to leave my dough to rise, means that, yes I can procrastinate by baking but, only for a little while. I have something to occupy my attention while my brain digests some reading. And then I need to let the yeast do its work and so I return to my work. I can fit it in around my reading and writing and it is something productive to do when my brain can’t take anymore.
As in life, my baking doesn’t always turn out the way I want it, but it is a different kind of learning, a different kind of creativity and reminds me that a PhD is a process and as abstract as it seems now, it will produce. In the mean time, I have bread to eat.
Part 23: Suores Vitae Part II
Originally Published: Saturday December 7th, 2013
Sunday night at Villa Maria, I was picked and brought back to the Bronx for a beginning of a new week. That retreat was the shot in the arm I needed.
So I was back for dinner in the Bronx and it was nice to get back to some ordinary time with the postulants. So Monday was the usual, but we got a sleep in! Except I couldn’t get up… I was held hostage by a vivid dream of a deformed cow following me around ringing a bell and reciting Shakespeare… No joke. It was weird. I have no idea what it may mean but I promise I’m not consuming any kind of hallucinogens. We caught up with all the news from the Sister’s visiting day on Sunday over meals and got stuck into the various chores around the place.
Tuesday I headed back up to Villa Maria Guadalupe with Sr Filumena the Kiwi novice and a load of food for the Come and See Retreat and it was snowing! The first snow of the season and I was very excited!
Part 22: Suores Vitae Part I
Originally Published: Saturday December 7th, 2013
It is Wednesday, sitting in my hotel room in Midtown Manhattan and I can finally start detailing my adventure with the Sisters of Life.
It began on the 17th of November. I arrived at on a chilly New York evening, dropped my bags off their Convent on W 51st Street and then headed to meet them at St Patrick’s Cathedral. They were doing Night Fever. It was huge, the doors of St Patrick’s were thrown open, with Eucharistic Adoration going on and confession too. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) were doing music and more CFRs and Sisters of life were inviting people in to pray and light a candle. It was a good way to begin the next 17 days.
I am Catholic and like most Catholics, I try to observe Lent. Usually by giving something up. I have been pretty hardcore and lived on bread and water for 6 days a week the entirety of Lent (Sundays are a day off fasting as they are a ‘small Easter even during Lent). Like most Catholics, I struggle with it somewhere between Day Two and Forty with that sacrifice. I struggle with discipline many areas of my life and so what do I do, I choose to do a PhD that is made or broken on my self-discipline!
So, it’s the day after Ash Wednesday and I am combining my Lenten sacrifice with a positive and productive practice of self-discipline: A two hour block, five days a week, first thing in the morning of writing. If it doesn’t happen then, then as soon as possible that day. Two hours. No distractions. Just write.
I can tell you now, I’m not off to a great start. Ash Wednesday was a fight to get out of bed and get started. But every day is a chance to get back up and try again. Please pray for me this Lent. I will take all that I can get.
Picture Credit: Follower of Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) The Battle between Carnival and Lent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today I want to tell you about a lesser known work of one of the English language’s most famous authors, Mark Twain. It is a travesty that this is not one of his better known books…
“I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.”
This book is one of the best books I have ever read in my life. Ever.