Classes have started. It feels a little odd for me to have homework again and everything, because I haven't had classes since last Summer, but I'm sure I'll get used to it pretty quickly.
I have three courses this semester, plus horticulture, and I work off-campus on Mondays--so, that's only ten hours a week, but maybe I'll manage more later in the season, and I've put in a bunch of hours the last few weeks, mostly cleaning and repairing things at the shop and cleaning out and re-mulching customer beds, so I have some money in the bank already for the year.
So, Tuesday afternoons I have Energy, Ethics, and Honor, with Karen. We've met once so far, and it's one of the few classes I've taken here that is directly focused on the "impossible" kind of magic. Basically, it's about the part of martial arts that isn't fighting--it's healing, energy manipulation, and how to live, what to do.
The healing part is Reiki, which I'm already taking outside of the regular class blocks with Joy, but Karen says she'll touch on it here, for students who haven't explored it yet. It will be interesting to see Reiki from a different perspective.
The other aspect of "energy" is more about perception and intuition. Like, this week we were visualizing balls of energy and passing them around to each other. We also moved through crowds with our eyes closed--that was fun. There are ten of us in the class, plus Karen, and we took turns being "It." The "it" person would be blindfolded and then would walk through the martial arts studio where we have the class--except the other students would be spread out through the room, standing silently. The challenge was to not bump into anybody, and the thing is, none of us did bump into anyone. When I did it, it was weird, but right when I got close to someone I'd feel a kind of tingling tension in their direction and I'd know to turn away. Even weirder, I thought I knew who some of them were. It was like I could see them. The whole thing made me think of Ebony.
The other thing we'll do is talk about ethics and proper behavior. We haven't done much of that, yet, because it depends on homework--we'll read stories about people making various choices and then we'll talk about our readings and our own experiences in class--and then spend the balance of class time doing the energy exercises. It sounds, so far, like two different classes, but I imagine they'll merge at some point.
On Thursday afternoons I'm taking Sacred Threads: American Religious History, with Greg. The idea of "threads" is part of the structure of the class in that we're going to be exploring a lot of different histories of different religions, sects, and religious movements, and compiling them all into the same timeline so we can see how each thread interacts with the others. The one class meeting we had so far was mostly introduction, talking about the various assignments and so forth, but Greg did have us talk about what we knew about American religious history--which wasn't much, which I guess was the point. As is the case for a lot of Greg's classes, we're doing a lot of reading for homework and then mostly using class time for discussion. Should be interesting.
My third class, on Friday afternoons, is also with Greg--American History of Dissent. It's going to focus on labor, civil rights, gay rights, women's rights, and similar groups, plus right-wing movements, and even hate groups. We did have homework before the first day of class, which is unusual but not unheard of around here--we had to read the novel, Storming Heaven, by Denise Giardina, which I did not at all mind doing. We won't be using fiction very much, Greg says, and we're not starting with the unionization of coal mining, which is what the book is about. We're starting, not surprisingly, with the American Revolution. Greg figured we all knew the basics of it so we could discuss it without any particular preparation, and he was right. But he wanted to use the book to set the mood--and maybe establish that some aspects of this class are going to be fun, despite the heavy subject matter. I mean, the book is pretty heavy, but it's an easy read, and using fiction to teach history is a little light-hearted.
Not surprisingly, Steve Bees is taking both of those classes with Greg, too--he takes most things Greg teaches, and of course is interested in both political dissent and religion. On the way out of class on Friday I conversationally asked him what he's planning to do for Easter.
"Now, there's another dissenter," he said.
"Oh, of course."
"That part kind of gets lost."
"Not here it doesn't," I told him.
"I guess not."
"Of course it doesn't. Now that Andy and Ollie are gone, you're the most vocal Christian on campus. The most vocally Christian one, anyway." Almost a fifth of the student body is Christian, but most of them are pretty casual about it and they're here to study things that don't quite fit within standard Christianity. They're like me, I guess. Steve is one of the few who is really into the religion, instead of treating it as background.
"I guess I am," he said, but he was smiling. Unlike Andy and Ollie, Steve is perfectly comfortable with paganism.
“So, what are you doing for Easter?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’m thinking of staying here.”
“Really? Not going to be with your girlfriend or seeing family?”
“My family is in Ohio, my girlfriend hasn’t invited me yet, and anyway, you guys are like my family. I’m trying to think about where I’ll be most useful, and I’m thinking it’s here. We’re a minority, as you said. We have to stick up for each other.”
I should explain, in case you don’t remember, that we don’t get an Easter break. If your parents live too far away for a weekend visit to make sense, you’re kind of stuck.
I made some kind of acknowledging noise. We were standing just inside the door of Chapel Hall—the weather was really windy outside and raw so we didn’t want to go out right away. We wouldn’t be able to talk out there, for one thing.
“What about you?” he asked. “Are you going or staying?”
“Going, I think. My Dad might disown me otherwise.” I saw Steve’s face and amended myself quickly. “I don’t mean literally, but I think he’d be upset, maybe hurt. And there’s the rest of my family. I don’t see them often enough.”
“Well, you’d better go then. Too bad, though, we could use you here."