I realized earlier today, during an extremely rare stop at a Starbucks, one basic source of my current writer’s block (which I am writing about, ironically, on a blog). I miss the sometimes exciting structure and environment of being in school. I lamented it often while I was there, but the truth is that it fed my creativity. I mean this regarding both my undergraduate and graduate studies, in different ways. There is something absolutely amazing, for whatever anxiety-inducing effects are attached, about an academic environment and furthering one’s study in a chosen discipline. Much better still is the integration of one discipline with others. I have, over the years, become a staunch proponent of the liberal arts. I have a firm belief that you cannot study history, philosophy, religion, literature, the fine arts, or the sciences by themselves, but you must – absolutely must – learn how each one in involved with the others. It is only through the true connection of these that we will understand the everyday struggles of the societies in which we live.
I miss that because I tasted it. I went to a college where the liberal arts were, at that point, still trying to thrive together. Although I was an English major, that major was couched in enough history (amongst others) that it almost became my minor, and I also had broad electives in visual arts and even one tutorial in vocal performance. It was enriching. Combined with my friendships outside the classroom with Christians (and non-Christians) from a variety of backgrounds and traditions, it was a continually thought-provoking, creativity-inspiring era.
The same, surprisingly, became true of my time in seminary. One does not imagine seminary as an interdisciplinary study, and this seminary itself is far less so that it was when I began. However, I became part of a program, however short-lived it was, that sought to bridge the disciplines of Christian theology, the philosophy of aesthetics, church history, the visual arts, and literature. The papers I was able to write, particularly for those classes, were great studies in grounding every major form of beauty and creativity in a Christian theology and anthropology and understanding how those studies have developed and been practiced throughout history.
The event that brought this to mind today was sitting outside for a short time at a Starbucks drinking a latte. I used to do this quite often when I was writing papers for my seminary classes. My best friend/roommate at the time worked at the Starbucks I frequented (largely the reason I went there), and he would join me outside during his breaks. We’d talk about classes, problematic topics, et al, and sometimes his coworkers (a diverse and witty group themselves) would join us for a bit of conversation. I also miss the talks with my main professor after class, as two or three of us students would walk and talk with him to the parking lot after our late night classes. One never knew what subject, what relationship, or what scandal from art or church history might come up and be given new light.
It isn’t as if I have no good conversations before or have no motivation for writing. One has to work much harder for them, however, when there’s no longer a natural framework to stimulate them. I sometimes wonder if I’ll go back for a doctorate or a second master’s someday. Perhaps this is true (I suspect it down the road), or maybe I simply need to do better resourcing the natural possibilities and people in my life to continue my education and creative stimulation.