Yesterday was spent on a trip to Williamsburg. We went to a memorial ceremony for J’s brother D, a graduate of The College of William Mary, Class of 1968. He died on 29 March, 2019 of ALS. J needed this as part of her mourning for D. She has had bronchitis most of this past week. Some of this congestion, I suspect, is grief unexpressed. It is a long process, this grieving. This College was one of J and D’s common bonds.
I realized, in walking around this lovely setting at this very old College, that college is an alien world for me. I have the degree. I can “pass” for educated. Yet I kept asking myself, “What am I doing here?” A lot of the alumni seem to be asking the same question, because they need alcohol to tolerate this Homecoming Weekend. I don’t go to my homecomings at The University of Virginia for similar reasons. I had to drink to tolerate the whole undergraduate experience there.
We are staying at a rather nice bed and breakfast. However, the room can either be chilly or overheated. We elected overheated. I said it is nice. It is quiet, with some cattle mooing in a front pasture. We don’t have cattle back home in Richmond.
I tried sleeping earlier. That lasted about two hours. I awoke, assessed my body pain, then dressed. After praying a Rosary, I cut my fingernails. The clippings fell on the red carpet, a red slightly darker than cherry Kool-Aid, for which I now suddenly and oddly long. Nails trimmed, I then picked the clippings out of the carpet. That ingathering of the nail clippings became the most meaningful thing I did all day. I guess it holds meaning because it signifies a task completed. And I did it sober, after prayer, after contemplating the Sufferings of Our Lord.
The Rosary has a tie to academia, through the Dominican Friars, like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Dominic. Not only did they champion these prayers to Our Lady, but they more or less invented the university itself. Ironically, let us contrast today’s modern university, with their multi billion dollar endowments, exorbitant budgets, ever-rising tuitions to the work of mendicant friars. What if the faculty had to seek alms before the very first book was opened? What if the students had to go around begging for their tuition before they matriculated?
It sounds odd, weird even. But maybe we would value learning as something other than an entitlement of class, status, or intelligence. Imagine all of our leaders, humbling themselves, as part of a life experience.