Friday, May 12, 2006

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world"

I just got back from my stroll up the mountain to Villars-- perhaps one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. Trying to put it into words reminds me of negative theology and the utter inadequacy of language.

The path from L'abri begins wending through a hillside meadow that spills out into the sprawling valley below, pinched between the towering heights of the alps. It then dives into the forest, crunching past trickling streams everywhere. Indeed, the whole mountainside was bubbling with water as the mountaintop snow gives way to spring and looks for the best path down to the valley. The trickling streams eventually give way to a teeming springtime flow closer to Villars. The soundtrack for the trek included birdsongs I've not heard before as well as the gentle clanging of a lone cow grazing.

I stopped at the Coop in Villars for my prey: as much Swiss chocolate as my suitcase can carry, as well as Smarties for the kids. (Not those icky American sugar tablets, but rather the real deal we enjoy in Canada.) Not all of the chocolate will make it to my suitcase: On the way back down the mountain, I stopped at a bench on the trail and enjoyed half a bar, sitting under a pine tree, with the sun stealing through in spots, and the snowcapped mountains continuing to impose themselves through the branches. (If I had a corkscrew, I don't think the wine I bought would have made it down the hill either.)

The whole experience reminded me of some Ricky Fitts confessed in American Beauty: "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like my heart is going to cave in." Grace à Dieu.

Postcard from Switzerland

I'm in the midst of enjoying a wonderful week of activity in Switzerland. The week began with my participation in the "Prophets, Priests, and Theologians" conference hosted by the good folks from the Shema Community in Geneva, and co-sponsored by Emergent-UK. The conversation--a nice, pretty intimate gathering of about 50 practitioners (with a few academics)--took place in the Auditoire au Calvin, John Calvin's teaching base in Geneva. Panelists included Brian McLaren, Jason Clark, Andrew Jones, Pete Rollins, myself and a few others. Good people, with good questions, and fun to be with. I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation. It was a special treat for all of us to stay together at night at a wonderful retreat home (next door to a 12-century priory) in Paillonex, France. This added a sense of intentional community to the conference, which helped solidify relationships so that the conversations were charitable and took place in a "safe" environment. A wonderful model.

I then took the train from Geneva and am now enjoying a stay at L'abri in the little village of Huemoz. L'abri is a community founded by Francis and Edith Schaeffer for those looking to explore questions of faith, particularly in engagement with contemporary culture. Deanna and I were here back in 2003 when I delivered the lectures that have now become Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? (So it was a treat to bring copies of the book here for the L'abri library, in thanks for their hospitality.) I presented two lectures based on the new book I'm working on, tentatively called Desiring the Kingdom. Last night I enjoyed Richard and Karen Bradford's delicious fondue, and today I'm going to hike up to Villars before enjoying a formal lunch discussion with students this afternoon. It's a treat waking up to the Alps in my window--I only wish Dee and the kids were here with me to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Grade Avoidance Behavior: Colbert on Bush

OK, this is surely a sign of my lack of will to really dive into the stack of papers I have to grade. But if you, too, are looking for a way to be slothful, treat yourself to Stephen Colbert's "roast" of George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner.