Monday, April 20, 2009

(1) The Spirit

Chapter Three. THE SPIRIT

Going to America was a big deal for me. During my Oxford years
I had made a small number of American friends, who I found both
pleasant and erudite. Indeed a couple of these friends had put
me onto the idea of attending the Harvard Divinity School. Of
course they also said that it would be great "fun" living in America.

As I flew across the Atlantic, I certainly hoped that my friends were
right. If not exactly fun, perhaps pleasant? Other than from what I
saw in the films and on television, I had no real concrete feeling
about America. I tried to spend some time reading American
newspapers in the libraries, but I never got much into them. Also,
trying to follow American politics was like walking in a maze. Too
puzzled, I just let be and decided that the best thing for me was
simply go to America and see for myself.

Moving past Greenland, swinging down over Canada, we finally
entered American airspace. I was incredulous, in that the coast
seemed nearly utterly built-up. It seemed much like a gigantic
city for almost a straight half-hour flying time. Boston loomed.
Our plane swept down and landed at Logan Airport.

I knew that Boston was one of America's oldest cities--so as I
taxied towards Harvard, I looked out on some of the city's older
architecture that seemed reminiscent of London. Yet not quite
the same. And modern Boston seemed in a constant state of
"dig," obviously in the midst of building projects.

Following the road along the Charles River, my driver pointed to
the distant buildings of Harvard University. Mostly redbrick
buildings, not like Oxford. Dropped off at the Divinity School, I
had little time to gawk. I had to sign-in, get directions to my
housing, and settle-in. Overall, I don't believe that I have ever,
ever been so tired. Totally exhausted, I simply collapsed on a
bed without even examining my rooms.

The next morning I gleaned over the course offerings available,
which seemed much like the theological categories provided at
Oxford. No one student--over a given lifetime--could master the
ever expanding field of Theology. Considering I had somewhere
around four years, working through for my Phd, I decided to
fiddle around in Biblical Studies as well as focusing on my major
field of Pneumatology.

A declared "Non-Denominational" student, my interest in Biblical
Studies was mainly from both a historical and philosophical
perspective. Ever more evolving a universal approach spiritually,
I still felt the need to gather together all the different religious
elements in the West--not only those of the ancient pagans, but
also those of Judaism and Christianity. Hence Biblical Studies,
in that the subject included scripture, history, archaeology, and
cross-cultural studies. This approach would augment my back-
ground as I moved on into what I considered new theological

Finally, with all the paperwork behind me, I had a few days before
the term began. So I ventured out into the greater part of the
university. Near the Law School and the Science Laboratories,
I walked on into the famous Harvard Yard--the oldest part of the
university. Students were beginning to congregate. And, eventually,
I poked my nose outside the main gate and walked out towards
what I could only consider bedlam!

Nearly immediately I was trying to cross Massachusetts Avenue,
over to a battery of stores. What we had here seemed to be the
middle of a large bumptious city--Cambridge, MA, not at all the
mirror-image of Cambridge, England. It was a gritty place, yet
full of brisk intensity. Walking on to an aside street, Brattle Street,
there were small stores; but walking further, one came upon tree-
shaded streets with elegant housing--presumably for Harvard's
famous professors.

Need I say that it took me quite awhile to relax in this place.
But once I did, finally falling into its flow, I began to enjoy Harvard
and all its strange environ(s).

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