Ain’t No Mountain High Enough?

MountainsWhen I returned to campus last week to start things off with faculty formation and prep, one thought came to mind and came to mind quickly: the mountain wasn’t high enough.  The mountain, of course, was the summer vacation that took me from Hawaii to Texas to Tennessee, Kentucky, Tulsa, Wichita, and Seattle.  The mountain was a retreat and time with family and with friends (some rarely seen but always loved).  The mountain was reading and praying and walking and sweet tea and Sonic.  The mountain was good.  But when I walked onto campus, the time on the mountain wasn’t long enough.

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Today was the first day back with students.  The last week was spent mostly leading out and organizing and wondering where-in-the-world some of my classroom trinkets had gotten to after the summer deep clean.  But even today I thought of the mountain and the many things that I have mentally connected to it.

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Each year at school we start things off with three mornings of worship and edification.  I started my time of sharing (thanks to my extended vocational stretch) by asking the audience to think of their favorite summer moment.  Then I mentioned this thought from C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet:

A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hmán, as if pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.

My time on the mountain, the long or short of it, wasn’t as over as one might think.  Memory is part of it, an odd extension that brings the moment just one bit closer to completion (without ever really making it on this side of the story’s end).  I hope the audience was encouraged.  I know that I was, which is why I am always grateful for the thoughts of Lewis.

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I carry around my little Laity Lodge notebook with me each day.  I don’t always look at it, but my “cleaned up” copy of notes serves as a nice reminder of what I learned and what can be done next.  One of those things is Alan Jacobs’s assertion about the danger of solutionism, the idea that we have bought into a quick and easy solution for everything (because “there’s an app for that”).  Jamie Smith connected the misdirection of solutions with the idea of disenchantment, the idea that the contemporary world has been flattened to the point that only something like the mechanical exists, leaving no room for the mysterious or the magical.  That might be more true than we’d care to admit.  And that’s a frightening thought, especially when we realize how easily and consistently we have simply instrumentalized the Gospel.

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All of this to say that my  mind has been thinking about mountains and valleys and rivers and such a lot more than usual.  This has been aided and abetted by the Old Testament readings from the Daily Office, which have recently moved from Sinai to the desert to the Jordan and the Promised Land.  It’s gotten my thinking figuratively, which I haven’t done in quite a while, gotten me sketching diagrams in notebooks trying to find a flow that makes sense of the present moment without disservicing the Scripture.  It might not make it into chapel, but there’s a good chance that some of that thinking will make its way here.

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