To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Year 2: Part 2: Post 3: Getting Warm

It snowed again the other day, but it was a warm snow, thick and pretty but melting even as it piled up. The wet places in the woods where the frogs live didn’t even freeze over. I think that by tomorrow, or maybe the day after, all the snow will be gone. I think this was the season’s last snow.

That would make it an “onion snow.” Growing up, I knew a few people who called it that. They said that the last snow of the year smelled like onions, that’s how you could tell it was the last one. But I’ve never smelled it.

The whole campus is white tonight, but spring is well on the way. This is something you get from not completely heating the buildings, I think. 

By completely heating…most places, in the outside world, are kept at room temperature year round, right? 78 degrees. In the winter it just costs more to do it. But here, as I think I’ve mentioned before, we only have the fuel wood we can grow and cut ourselves, so we don’t want to use too much of it. When it’s cold out, we let it get cold inside, too, just not as cold. 

The Mansion’s been around sixty degrees, the past few months, unless you’re right next to one of the stoves. At night, when the stoves go out, it can drop to forty. Chapel Hall is even worse, because the building leaks air badly and any heat that ends up in the Chapel itself gets stuck up there next to the high ceiling twenty feet above anybody’s heads. On Brigit we couldn’t get the place much above forty degrees.

The point of all this is that, inside or outside, in the winter it’s cold. I wear both my uniforms at once, sometimes with long underwear underneath, whether I’m in or out. To go out, I add sweaters. I’m still dressing this way to go to class in March—but the difference is, now I’m dressed this way and I’m warm. It takes much less wood to get a building up to sixty degrees when the outside temperature is thirty or forty than it did when it was eighteen degrees out last month.

I’ve had all four of my classes now at least once. Greg’s class I’ve had twice, of course. I want to write more about my classes as the semester goes along, but they are interesting so far.  Dark Waters, Allen’s class on psychological problems, might make an interesting pairing with American Minority Perspectives, given that both are about how people other than me see the world.

I’ve been really looking forward to Dark Waters. As Allen said, in the description that went with the sign-up sheet, that as people who take the existence of magic seriously, we need some other way to decide if we’re sane or not—or, if other people are. I expect most of us will be in the position of giving advice, in one way or another, in our capacity as clergy, and we’ll need to know if someone needs more help than we can give. Plus, you know, I’m curious. I want to know what craziness really is, beyond the jokes and stereotypes you hear about sometimes.

So, Tuesday we had our first class and Allen handed out syllabi. He hadn’t posted a reading list before classes started, so we won’t have a lot of reading right off, like we do with Greg. I don’t think we’ll have a lot of homework at all. 

A few of us asked questions about the syllabus. I wanted to know what “sexual deviance” meant—and yes, I did ask like that and yes, everybody laughed at me. Allen smiled with the others but explained that he wanted to spend a class talking about how psychology defines which variations are pathological and which aren’t. He wouldn’t explain further. He said he didn’t want to get ahead of himself, which means he’s planning lots of trick questions or other such surprises.

Then he talked some about the purpose of the class and the importance of exploring “the deep, dark waters of the mind,” as he put it. Then, he launched into the history of psychology as a discipline, particularly how it defines and approaches insanity.

He talked about the gradual differentiation of psychology from philosophy, experimental psychology vs. psychoanalysis, Freud and Jung, animal psychology (including its frequent abuse of animals), behaviorism, cognitivism, and the rise of drug treatments through psychiatry. In the course of all this, he almost casually mentioned the 19th and early 20th century incarceration of people deemed to be insane, particularly inconvenient women and homosexual men, early definitions of autism as a form of schizophrenia, and the treatment of both nymphomania and hysteria, both which were supposedly real problems but sound like female sex drive and female sexual frustration respectively. He talked about Freud’s theories, in which virtually everything was supposedly related to suppressed sexual desires (why on Earth would any woman wish she had a penis?), Jung’s theories, which sound really too elaborate to be helpful, electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and a lot of different and entirely conflicting ideas about what the mind actually is.

It's a lot of the same material he went over last year, in Intro to Psychology, but with a different emphasis, and somehow this time it all sounded really bizarre. Joanna had a question. 

“No offense,” she said, “but it sounds from all this as though it’s the psychologists who are all insane.”

We all laughed uncomfortably. Allen smiled the way he does when someone brings up a very good point.

“For homework,” he said, pointing, first at Joanna and then at the rest of us with a pencil, “I want you to write me at least a paragraph on how you could assess whether that’s true.”

[Next Post: Monday, March 31st: More Classes]

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