by Eric Daryl Meyer
The first was an eight day trip for alumni of an off-campus program in Oregon – The Oregon Extension. The OE, as it is called, is home to a handful of wonderfully eccentric professors, one of whom was on the trip with us to lead us in bible study and contemplative practices. John Linton is a wonderful fellow to get into a long conversation with. He’s deeply interested in questions of violence, and especially religious violence.
The group also included my new mom and dad – Carolyn’s folks signed up to come on the trip to fill out the numbers. Spending some extended time with them in a place we all love was a real treat. Adult trips are a lot of fun to be apart of, there is space to let people do what they would like, there are less social pressures, and there is often a greater honesty and openness possible among those who have had a few more years to come to know themselves.
That said, the energy of the second trip was totally different. We led one of two groups on the Inoculum, a pre-orientation trip for incoming freshman to Westmont College. The nervous energy among the students is palpable, and it gives the trip a very excited feel. These are really fun trips to lead. Along with seven days of hauling our packs around the wilderness, we spent a day climbing, a day on a technical 12,000 ft. peak, and 28 hours of solitude and fasting in the woods. The twelve day trip has an academic component as well as the wilderness component, so we were lucky enough to be joined on the trip by one of my former philosophy profs at Westmont David Vanderlaan and his (new) wife Kate. David led us in discussions about the nature of faith, doubt, and selfhood. Informally we had a lot of great conversations about the mind-body problem, ontological dualism, the persistence of physical objects, and Reformed/Orthodox/Lutheran theology.
I led a series of Bible Studies that brought passages of scripture together with poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. They were focused on creation and our place in it. The first was an attempt to relocate our consciousnesses to understand that we are a part of creation, not gods hovering over it (using Job 38-42 and “Pied Beauty). The second looked at our purpose in creation as “namers”, priestly mediators of God’s meaning and order (using Genesis 2 and “Ribblesdale). The third touched on the change in the human relationship to creation that comes with the fall. Rather than being comfortabe and naked in the garden, all our needs met, we find ourselves tearing creation apart to cover our shame at the sight of our own butt cheeks out in the breeze. I take this as a metaphor that holds true even at present. The fourth study looked at ecological aspects of salvation and especially about what the reconcilliation of all things means in a new creation. I enjoyed talking with the students about things that are close to my heart – theological reasons for Wilderness and conservation. Hopefully some of it connected.
Midway through the trip (on day 9), Carolyn flew out to Albany to take the Hippocratic oath and don her new white coat. I miss her quite a bit as I wrap things up here in Bridgeport. Next week I start driving East with all our worldly possessions. I’m looking forward to being out in Albany, we’ve got a nice little apartment in an old Victorian house. I’ll be studying for the GRE’s, finishing the master’s thesis for Regent, and applying to PhD programs in the area around Albany. Carolyn will be cramming medical textbooks so we will by quite the studious pair…