|Cloisters Cross, 12th. c., walrus ivory, the Met|
But then I look at the Cloisters Cross and the Jewish and Christian figures debating between each other upon it. Scrolls are as gestural as hands, and the nature of the divine is debated between Christians and Jews (as it was around the Victorine school of 13th century Paris). The texts leave us with incredibly lively back-and-forths and smug Christian victories, but I wonder about the actual debates themselves, I wonder about the specificity of that intellectual (theological?) curiosity. I wonder about the specificity of experience. Does the experience of anti-Semitism have to speak to that of racism, homophobia, sexism - all of the ills for which we seek social justice? Or in this call to witness, is there a call to specify, to notice this ill in its specific contours? At what point can suffering be claimed by a person instead of a people?
This might be the week-end to keep these questions in mind. I'm off to a Posse retreat in the woods where students lead faculty members into thinking through their experiences of college, life, and everything in between. The topic for this week-end is "Gender and Sexuality." Oof. Posse is a smart program that brings a group of urban students to small liberal arts colleges and finds that individuals thrive within that group, aren't lost within this strange, white crowd quite so easily, and are happier - do better. DePauw was actually mentioned in a recent New York Times article about the organization. I'm excited (honored) to go, even as I can't possibly imagine what awaits. The vicissitudes of academe being what they are, two week-ends ago I was in Naples, Florida with the Board of Trustees and there were cocktails everywhere and people playing steel drums in the lobby (!) for atmosphere. This week-end, we've been told to bring our own bedding and snacks as the food is "very institutional." This might be what bonds us as we search for the specificity of experience, as we seek to witness difficulties, and maybe triumphs, too.