Before and After: A Mike’s Tale of the First Year

Greetings and salutations.  I am aware that this is a very, very long-overdue update, so I will stick to specific interests in short (editor: APPARENTLY NOT, looking back on this miles-long post…) sections, coupled with  a commitment to stick to posting more often in the coming months!

Academics

After a rather lengthy semester, I can currently report on all my course but for one, which is as-yet ungraded: those other courses were all passed with fairly high marks, particularly considering how stressful the second part of the semester was for me this spring.  The courses themselves were all rather informative in a variety of ways, but I learned an unbelievable amount of content from two of them in particular: Old Testament Interpretation II, during the course of which we covered almost all of the minor prophets and writings of the OT; and Martin Luther’s Life and Thought.  In the latter case, I rediscovered a piece of software from Logos.com, which I used to purchase the entire 44 volume set of Luther’s Works (the American Edition) for an unbelievably low price: given that I got an electronic copy and they didn’t need to print anything, the thrift of the sale makes sense.  Even better, and a big part of how I got so much out of that class stems from that Luther’s Works set being completely electronically searchable; additionally, they are hyperlinked to each other, so if I am curious about what Footnote 2163 has to say in Volume 13, I can click to open it in a new tab.  The list of features goes on, such as highlighting and note-taking and the like, but suffice to say that I am extremely pleased with my purchase!  When combined with the exhaustive Google Document notes I took for all my classes, my opus from the Divinity School is becoming formidably large indeed.

Somewhat separately from the spring’s outcome, I was initially planning on trying to take intensive Koine Greek this summer at YDS.  Then, several summer plans changed, but not least of all I learned from several primary sources that the “intensive” in “intensive Greek” is Serious Business, with every waking moment of those nearly 2 months spent in class, working on classwork at home, or sleeping in between the other two working sessions.  Given that I had a stressful enough spring as it was, and recalling prior commitments made on this blog to choosing health over workaholism and the like, I decided against doing Greek this summer.  Not sure if that will mean Greek this coming fall (concurrently with New Testament I, which I wanted to avoid if possible), or next summer, but I will of course keep you posted.

Health

Speaking of health, a brief set of updates is necessary to previously mentioned goals and ideals.  I did indeed order and receive that Fitbit Aria wireless scale, and have been using it to great effect to help me keep playing the data game; when combined with my new pattern of using a tape to measure my body for greater precision and my months-long habit of religiously entering my meals and exercise into a fantastic free Android app called MyFitnessPal (the app uses the phone’s bar code scanner to make adding foods almost too easy, and thus I have an ever-growing set of data to help me figure out what bad patterns happen and why, towards the end of improving them), I seem to have an ironclad plan for continuing these good habits I recently kick-started anew at the end of a stressful spring.  This also sheds more light on the benefit of not taking Greek this summer as well as the below explanation of my new job: the low stress plan for the summer will allow me to really cement good habits and patterns prior to the fall, methinks!  Additionally, I have been walking the ~1.8 miles home from work daily, and am going to soon restart my daily after-work lifting up and setting down of heavy objects at home.  Perhaps somewhat odd to see on this list, I am making a concerted effort to be much more calculating in my frugality, chiefly with the assistance of the free financial aggregation web browser service called Mint; if you’re interested in seeing all your online financial accounts displayed at once, are trying to rein in your spending, or just revel in the simple joy of data tracking with graphs like I do, I would strongly advocate looking at Mint.

Fun

Closely related to the issue of health is fun, a necessary part of mental health and generally being whole!  One of my favorite activities, reading non-academic articles, was revived over the past month or so, and I am delving deep into the frightening but compelling corridors of H.P. Lovecraft, the horror writer who has influenced most of that genre after him.  I have been keeping up the good (great!) work when it comes to board-gaming with the housemates and guests (including Parmly and Dylan, old friends of mine from the District, who came up to visit a few weekends ago).  New additions to the game library include an out of print copy of Avalon Hill’s 1979 classic Dune, as well as a tactical card game called Space Hulk: Death Angel.  My landlord Whitney was so pleased with all the work I did on the basement thus far that he ended up getting us a free billiards table for the basement (my roommate Ryan and I had a reaction along the lines of this documentary recreation of the moment we discovered it sitting in the basement).  That said, the legs of the pool table were broken off en route, so much like the gaming table I rebuilt and we have enjoyed using since, I have already started the plans for constructing some prosthetic billiards legs.  After raving about it for a semester to Ryan, I have convinced him to screen Battlestar Galactica with me over the course of this summer (I don’t usually like television programs, but I watched all of the series in about two weeks back in February, having become instantly addicted!).  All told, it promises to be an enjoyable and (as a direct result) healthy summer ahead!!!

Work

Finally, we can turn to the other aspect of life that is perennially here: working in the non-academic sense.  For the past two semesters, I was employed at Yale’s Office of Sustainability, involved in paper reduction efforts.  While it was a great office, with wonderful coworkers and a vital mission, it was too high a stressor to continue being involved with, given my unyielding focus on health as primary concern.  For the summer, I am employed full-time at Yale Law School, working in IT to assist students, staff, and faculty with all manner of technical problems (as a matter of fact, I am doing work on 4 separate laptops as I compose this post!).  It has been an excellent experience thus far, with delightful coworkers and an awesome boss – the students I have helped have always had interesting stories to share as I worked, and I have been privileged to learn about Yale’s IT infrastructure from the inside.  Given what has been a highly successful experience thus far, I seem to have found the right mixture of low-stress, high-pay, flexible hours, and enjoyable work for the next several years while I attend Yale!  Best of all is the object lesson inherent to this particular occupation, a lesson I find myself needing to learn and relearn anew: as much as I like to envision a future making huge differences for wide swathes of people through more ethical development work, a healthy sense of scale is necessary to cultivate: after all, my fixing an otherwise-useless laptop and saving a partially-finished final exam means the WHOLE world to that particular student, even if it was just another customer helped at the job for me.  More pondering will be done on this, but any and all people willing to yell at me into believing what I just typed would be much appreciated.

A Brief Summary of Year 1 at YDS

All told, what might I say about my first year at Yale Divinity School, now many moons behind me?  I made friendships with a wide variety of people both at the Divinity School and downtown; I got involved in the administration and IT sides of Yale via employment that have broadened my perspective on understanding this academic institution as a whole; and I have really gotten to know parts of New Haven outside the realm of normal Yale graduate student life (living in Newhallville, which I wouldn’t trade for anything).  On an academic level, I have learned enough things to make my brain consistently sore and stretched in good ways, and am again experiencing that odd admixture of excitement and apprehension at having to pick a small finite set of courses from all of the fascinating offerings for the fall.  I have been blessed with housemates who are amongst my best friends in New Haven (Ryan, Amber who will be staying, and Shawn who is departing for a lengthy trip to China), and am hoping and praying that the incoming Divinity student who ends up as our new housemate is equally friendly and fun.  Perhaps most importantly, and beyond the space constraints of this post (editor: no kidding), I would simply point to my having done a statistically significant amount of growing over the preceding handful of months: as with most growing, it hasn’t always been pleasant, planned, or preferable; instead it has been rather painful at times, prone to being unexpected, and not especially predictable as per ever.

Yet I would like to mention that this period of growth and learning has been fruitful in ways I couldn’t have predicted.  I have a favorite book, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (which you should all go read as soon as possible.  Potentially consider pausing the reading of this post in favor of that book, but be forewarned it is not a tale of fairies and sunshine rainbow smile-flavored Skittles), and my favorite line in it regarding the extremely difficult experiences of the protagonist also led me to my favorite verse of the Bible:

“Matthew ten, verse twenty-nine,” Vincenzo Guiliani said quietly. ” ‘Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your father knowing it’ “

“But the sparrow still falls,” Felipe said. [pg 401]

For a long, long time now after some rough and tumble experiences abroad, I have had trouble gaining comfort from the former part of the verse and found Felipe’s quip rather inescapable.  While I cannot claim to have a full answer to it at this point, I can honestly say that I have discovered that the best lessons are learned via hardship, which is perhaps tertiary wisdom (I am still nowhere close to the primary wisdom that is the Socratic level of ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα hèn oîda hóti oudèn oîda).  In a lot of ways, this semester has made me embrace my Lutheran heritage quite a bit: our denomination has a particularly good handle on both acknowledging the hardships of life here and now, while holding to an eschatological hope for the future.  No theological treatise or dissertation here yet, just some thoughts I wanted to record here and now, for posterity).  As per ever, more on this rather complicated thought process as it grows.

Even still, I would just basically point out that if “God works in mysterious ways” (which I encountered over the course of this semester), and knowing for certain that I work in mysterious [inexplicable, sometimes infernal] ways (also encountered a fair amount over the course of the semester), this wacky pairing should lead to… an exciting new episode in Mike’s Time at YDS.  Tune in next summer for the full report on the Second Year!

Photos

And finally, a rather eclectic photo section ranging from cleaning up the room post-semester, to organizing the board game stash, to rebuilding a billiards table (bear with me, these will be added over time as I have the chance):

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