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New Fodder

January 21, 2011
Dharma and Whiskey

Dharma and Whiskey

A new semester.  I’ve got my feet under me and I started running.  I am taking four classes: Spiritual Care and Counseling, Religion and the Meaning of Existence, Perspectives on Chan Buddhism, and Pastoral Theology.  Due to the King holiday (no class on Monday), all but the last are in the bag.  In addition, my weekly schedule will include group process, student government, and exercise with my classmate Chris, who has graciously agreed to put up with my whining and help me get in shape for the Navy physical fitness test.

Yes, that’s right, it’s quite possible I will be joining the Navy as a chaplain candidate.  I went to talk to a recruiter after classes let out last semester, and after following Chris around to get a feel for military chaplaincy.  We went through the requirements and checklist.  I discussed things with my folks when I visited them in Omaha.  Assuming I meet the Navy’s high standards, I could start officer training this summer.  They offer no money for college, but pay an officer’s salary while in active training.  Due to the former, I’d be under no service obligation when I graduated, but in good financial and physical shape thanks to the summer gig.  However, I find it highly unlikely at this point that I might fail to serve.  It makes sense, in a surreal “Wow, never thought I’d be doing that,” sort of way.  It makes me smile to think about it.  At this point getting in seems more daunting than being in.

On a different note, this will mean several things for the blog.  On class at least, Spiritual Care and Counseling, will require weekly writings.  Some of them will be reflections, some on ethics, and some verbatims.  The first two will be posted here on the blog (likely under On Dharma) and will cover assigned readings.  The last one, verbatims, (which my computer keeps ‘correcting’ by removing the ‘s’) were unknown to me before starting this program.  Basically, they are conversations that a chaplain has with a client/patient/counselee, recorded afterward to the best of the chaplain’s ability.  Despite the name, they are rarely “verbatim.”  The idea is to hone reflective listening skills and learn from each experience.  Due to privacy considerations, I will not be posting verbatims here.

Religion and the Meaning of Existence (forty-two) will require two academic papers of moderate length which I may or may not post.  However, in that class I will also be taking notes.  Whether or not I take notes is entirely based on the teaching style of the professor.  At this stage in my academic career, I mostly don’t bother.  I have a good auditory memory to start with and I rely heavily on readings, research materials, and presentation slides, if available.  Sometimes, though, notes are helpful if the professor in question is an exceptional lecturer (which so few are anymore).  Posts (possibly On Dharma or as Drunk Talk) may evolve as vignettes from these notes.

Perspectives on Chan Buddhism looks to be shaping into a very academic class.  It is not about Chan Buddhism, per se, but rather about the body of academic scholarship concerning Chan Buddhism created in the most recent decades.  In studying this work, I will undoubtedly learn about the teachings and he history of Chan, but also about how religion is studied and questioned academically.  I see many Riding Lessons in the future.

The final class, Pastoral Theology, is more of a mystery, but one I look forward to.  It’s with my favorite fellow Buddhist blogger, Reverend Danny Fisher, after all.

I do have a few other projects in mind, based on conversations with fellow students.  Everyone here has such fabulous stories – about how they came to Buddhism, how they came to America, how they decided on chaplaincy, on and on.  I’d like to learn them and retell them, if folks will allow me the opportunity.  Alternatively, I’d like to give them the opportunity to tell their stories themselves, as guest contributors here on the blog. I hope this will give the Buddhists (and non-Buddhists) who find themselves here many perspectives on the many paths people walk.  Maybe readers will find someone or some story to which they can relate that helps them in their own journey.

From time to time, I may whine about aching muscles.  Some people find exercise to be a form of stress relief, calming, almost meditative.  I think they’re all nuts.  Exercise does peculiar things to my mind.  I may be forced to ramble on about it once in a while.

Then there is student government.  Ah, student government … Later.  We’ll talk about that later, likely under Horse Sense or Riding Lessons.  For now, just let it be said that the best approach to student government (or any government) is that of an idealist with no expectations.

And though I did not mention it in the beginning, there is the ongoing saga (or lack thereof) of my love life (or lack thereof).  Currently, it seems of much less interest or urgency than it did six months ago.  Likely, because as a result of my adventures in online dating I’ve met three men I’m not particularly disappointed to never see again.  And also because I got laid recently (not by any of the lackluster three).  So, meh.  For now.  Things change.  I think the Buddha said so, in case we were too dense to notice this for ourselves.

That’s how the semester is shaping up.  I’ve been sans whiskey for over six weeks, since my last bottle ran dry at the end of finals week.  I tend to use alcohol as a reward rather than a coping mechanism (and hope it shall always remain thus) and treated myself to two fingers upon completion of my last paper.  Plus, whiskey (or my preferred whiskey, anyway) is not cheap and I am poor.  But upon visiting my parents, I rescued the bottle hiding in my mother’s kitchen cupboard.  It was the last refugee of a small box of salvaged kitchen goods that made the move from my apartment to my folk’s house the week before I shipped my life west.  It safely followed me back to California, double zip locked and well packed with socks inside a Wellington boot in my checked bag, which was dutifully searched (I got the flyer) without a sip lost.  My regrets to the TSA.  So tonight, I poured a finger without the least compunction.  I shall sleep well, aching muscles and all.

Welcome to the new semester.

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