The Doubt of the Saints

“Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” — Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

Time Magazine came out with a whole slew of “Top 10″ lists this week, from the top 10 moments in sports to the top 10 Middle East stories. At the head of their “Top 10 Religion Stories” list was the publishing of Mother Teresa’s private letters.

If you missed the story when it first broke, a collection of private letters between Mother Teresa and several of her confidants was collected and published by Doubleday, under the title Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. What made this otherwise innocuous event newsworthy were the passages in which she speaks of deep doubts and confusions, where the Angel of Calcutta professes her long periods of doubt, her struggle to believe that a compassionate God could exist, in the face of such overwhelming suffering. That kind of doubt seemed, to those reporting on it, to be inconsistent with the image of stalwart sainthood so cherished by millions.

Of course, anyone who has pursued the life of faith knows that’s not true. We make peace with our doubts, or we flee them, but we don’t ever outgrow them. The presence of doubt in so great a life as Mother Teresa’s is not evidence that religion and devotion are a sham; they are evidence that faith, once awakened by the intimacy of God, can sustain a lifetime of duty and virtue even in the presence of great doubt.

One of the better reflections on faith and doubt was written by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, as quoted by Dallas Willard at the opening of The Divine Conspiracy. Writing as the demon Uncle Screwtape, C.S. Lewis says,

“You must have often wondered why the enemy [God] does not make more use of his power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree he chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the irresistible and the indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as his felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For his ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve … Sooner or later he withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all supports and incentive. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish … He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand … Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

47 thoughts on “The Doubt of the Saints

  1. David

    ….when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

    And we call that faith! Amen

  2. Lilac

    Well you see, the fact that the whole caboodle of Christians believe that Jesus is God basically undermines the very first commandment and the only commandment that was given to Adam and Eve:

    Thou shalt not equate God with anything, anyone else. It is relatively simple and hard to understand how so many people screwed that up.

    Most people though, are not really “believers” according to Allah in the Glorious Quran.

    Read it sometime. You might be shocked at why they as in “they” hate it so much. It is because the Quran tells the truth about what “they” did.


  3. michael lee Post author

    Lilac, I’m not sure if you’re just a fly-by, or a regular reader, but If you’re looking to throw dogs over the divinity of Christ, I’m good to go.

  4. harmonicminer

    Lilacs, if you’re around, I’m not sure I was able to follow what you meant to say.


    Anyway…. doubt is not a sin. It means you’re a human. Demons believe perfectly.

  5. Cerise

    [changing gears]

    Thanks for writing this up, Michael. This entry has made me think thinky thoughts about faith and doubt and…what happened to me and Christianity. Why we parted ways. It’s just baking my noodle, especially since I’ve literally been of two minds about Jesus and Christians in my shortish lifetime. I was a complete believer for my entire non-adult life. And then it felt like someone flipped a switch, I wasn’t having no truck with it anymore and I became (or maybe I always was) one of the most not-spiritual people I’ve ever met. And I admire people who say why-god-why and still do what they believe to be god’s work (and it’s generally really good work) and realize that the thing that separates them from a smug old agnostic like me is that I stepped away when things got too hard for my head/heart to process (I can provide specifics but you’ve heard them all and I’ve heard all the Christian answers to them – we can all sigh with ennui and move on) and the people I left behind didn’t. I hadn’t faith enough. Or belief or tenacity or trust enough. But before I get to feeling too bad about it, I remember that this falls on the end of a long list of things I wasn’t enough of as a Christian and remember why I left all over again. But I still feel…faithless. Failed. But I’m still not sorry to be gone.

    Anyway, this is getting more personal than commenters generally get around here and I know most of you have probably already had it up to here with me being, you know, all black-sheepy and everything, but I thought you’d like to know that you provoked thought. This is a beautiful picture of those who stay and why.

  6. Leoskeo

    I think all of us have our moments when we struggle with our confidence in God. For me it usually has more to do with me than with God. My questions shrink but rarely disappear all together and some get answered but not usually by infomration. In my home I find the closer I am with my wife the more my questions, puzzlements and frustrations shrink, disappear or get answered. Knowing everything about her was not a requirement of loving her, it was a hunger produced by loving her and is a part of the joy of a healthy relationship. In other words I love learning about my wife.

    This hunger for the discovery of a person is a huge part of the Creators stamp in us. Daily he would walk with Adam (Eve I presume too) sharing, discovering and knowing fully.

    This is also true of my friendship with my Father in Heaven. I am so limited I cannot fully know him but because I choose to love him I want to. In the desire to know him my questions shrink,disappear or get answered. Because I love him and sometimes to the extent that I love him I want to discover and know him. This is a great post, thanks for it.

  7. harmonicminer

    Cerise, this may be off topic…. and fools rush in… and all that.

    I really felt like I understood what you said about difficulty with faith. Oh boy. Despite appearances, you have no idea how well.

    And I take seriously what you said about having heard it all, already. And I would have said, and believed, exactly the same thing, some time back.

    But I was wrong, in a very simple way, in a 49-51 kind of way, where I was seeing the 49 as bigger than the 51, simply because I was closer to it. What I had not considered was the faith required to believe nothing, and the impossibility of living as if I believed nothing.

    Don’t get me wrong… I really do appreciate the large distinction between a dedicated atheist and an agnostic. For the atheist it isn’t 49-51, it’s 10-90, with the 90 on the side of “no God”. But most agnostics really aren’t so far from the 49-51 split… otherwise they’d call themselves something else.

    The thing is, 49-51 doesn’t seem like much, certainly not enough to make decisions over, but in fact, it’s a huge difference. In other arenas, it’s the difference between getting rich and going broke, between survival and starvation, between the bullet hitting or missing. It’s a deal maker/breaker.

    It was acquainting myself with the impossibility (call it extreme unlikelihood) that the universe is an accident that turned out to cause my 2 % shift, from 49% for God to 51% for God.

    I admit to some guilt over this fact…. I feel a bit like Thomas, having to touch the wounds to be convinced. But there it is. When I was 20, there was a good deal less evidence than when I was 40 that the universe seems to have been made for us. Actually, there was quite a bit of evidence when I was 20, but I didn’t know enough about it, and it wasn’t making its way into public view very well.

    The evidence just keeps piling up, and it has gotten so extreme that people who can’t face its implications are having to invent the notion of an infinite number of universes more or less like ours in order to explain how WE got HERE. Which just forces the question: what’s easier to believe, an infinity of universes, of which we can see only ONE, and for which we have an explanation of NONE, or a God who created the one universe we know about?

    There do not seem to be other choices, unless you want to buy into the ONE universe being the ONLY universe and the one which, contrary to all reasonable expectation, led to stars, planets, and us, none of which were a given at the time of the Big Bang. That’s even harder to swallow than the infinity of universes notion. (No educated person speaks about the “primordial soup” and the “billions and billions of years for life to form” anymore. Yes, I know it’s in some textbooks, still, but those books are being selected by essentially uneducated people.)

    There is an impossible amount of “just rightness” in how the universe formed to even allow stars and planets, let alone how we humans got here, assuming that stars and planets would exist, in a place where we can live. I am far from alone in saying this, and many people saying it are not particularly theists…. but that’s because they can’t quite accept the necessities of their own research. Lately agnostic scientists have taken to writing books with titles like “Rare Earth” to make the case about how unlikely it all is.

    Cosmology doesn’t lead straight to being a Methodist or something. Not saying that. But to deal seriously with being a human being in the 21st century, you have to listen to what cosmology is saying to us about ourselves and how we got here, and what this place IS. Post-modernism isn’t the current of this century, it is the intellectual current of the last, and it grows out of 19th century intellectual traditions about power versus knowledge, essentially Nietzsche pretending to be polite. In THIS century, cosmology and origins is going to be “the thing”, growing out of 20th century understandings that the universe is not a deterministic place (a la the enlightenment model), it didn’t HAVE to be this way in the one and only universe we know about, and yet, improbably, we’re here.

    That was the 2%, for me, that tipped me to 51-49 that there IS a God who made this mess. That got me to looking seriously, in a fresh way, at the various religious traditions. The more I looked, the more Genesis chptrs 1 and 2 seemed like a closer representation of a creator making the whole thing one day more or less out of nothing (the Big Bang), than any other “creation myth”. In fact, suspiciously close…. as close as I can imagine a prescientific writer about creation events could get it. I.e., if a modern cosmologist went back in a time machine and explained it all to Moses or somebody, who tried to write it all down, I wouldn’t expect it to be any closer. That got me to looking just bit more closely at some other things.

    The “problem of evil” is big, but the problem of existence is bigger, WAY bigger, and takes intellectual precedence.

    As I said in another thread ( I am still full of questions, many of which probably do not have objectively correct answers, and never will. I’m certainly not fully comfortable with the theology/teachings of any specific Christian group or denomination, and I have a very strong suspicion that Christianity was hijacked about the time of Constantine or so (when Christians got political power and abused it for about the next 1500 years).

    But the reversal of that 51-49 balance has had me creeping in unexpected directions for many years now, though it would have been hard to find a more cynical person about the church and its teachings than me, when I was a twenty-something… maybe a thirty-something, too. I am still a very cynical person about “the church” as a human institution… but not necessarilly about all “churches”. I continue to believe that no recognizable denomination or tradition has dealt with its own history, in an adequately serious and humble way.

    I had to deal with the fact that some of my resistance was not “intellectual” or even “emotional”, but was just plain me not wanting to be accountable to anything beyond myself. Individual freedom, and all of that.

    Day By Day ain’t just a song.

    So, a simple question: are you 49-51, or 10-90? If you’re really in doubt, you’re closer to the cusp than you think. And if you reach the tipping point, it doesn’t mean you suddenly know the answers, and solve your problems with it all, especially if they involve some history in your own life. God knows I don’t, and haven’t.

    None of us (including the Angel of Calcutta) has “gotten there”, or ever will, while Time stands. But I’m pretty sure that God honors the direction in which we’re traveling. He does not expect us to know the contents of every sign He’s posted along the journey. He has left signs for all of us, though, that we can see from where we happen to be, if we decide to look.

    Look up, find the sign that is there for you, and take a few steps, being careful where you plant your feet. Then look up again, and there is likely another sign waiting for you, if you look closely and actually want to see it. A few more steps… and do it all again.

    It’s really scary not to know where you’re going. The thing is, if you’re 49-51, you’re living life AS IF you know. No one is really a “functional agnostic”. Everyone makes decisions.

    I decided to ask for directions.

  8. Melody

    Harmonic, I really appreciated the account of your journey. I do have a question for you, though. Mother Teresa admitted to 50 years of the “dark night of the soul”. This was after she had made her commitment and had some sort of personal encounter with God. She apparently never resolved it. Do you think this is resolvable?

  9. Cerise

    Thanks, Phil, for your kind response. I’ve printed out your words for mulling-over purposes, but for now I have to say that I’m pretty sure I’m one of the 51-49 ilk. I don’t have any inclination to prove god’s non-existence for myself and feel only a little uncomfortable that I’m no longer sure of what, deity-wise, I do believe in. I don’t know if it’s normal post-Christian procedure, but I seem to be in a state of spiritual limbo for the present – gave up one set of beliefs, said ‘whew’, then didn’t really get moving on finding another set of beliefs to take up, besides my persistence in not feeling alone and in knowing that I may ask for help and/or give thanks when I feel the need. For now that’s enough, especially given my need to have as little structure in and around my life as possible (holding down a day job is as structured as I can possibly get, I’m not kidding). The diaphanous belief system that replaced my iron-clad Jesus-God-Church-Heaven-Hell certainty isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t anger me or make me feel inadequate, either. I’m not saying that that’s what Christianity is, no way. But that’s what MY Christianity was, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to stick around and make things work, as many of my friends have. [cough *Aly* cough]

    That’s what I’m getting at, that I feel a wistful sometimes, to be one of the ones who lost their faith instead of alchemizing their very inadequate spiritual upbringing into a solid, worthwhile and sustaining belief system with room for reason and discussion. I don’t know if that’s Mother Theresa’s story or not, but she had to have made it work somehow.

    And I want to say that on both sides of the creation/evolution story are some very silly people, as there are with every polarizing issue, and the truth is probably found in the muzzy middle spot, don’t you think?

    Thank you again, Phil, for tackling this so nicely. You’re a good man.

  10. Harmonic Miner

    Hey Melody,

    Mother Teresa picked a particularly tough gig…. Angel of mercy in hell, basically. It is not surprising that she had lots of depression and inner struggle. Unless she saw a miracle per day, she has to have felt like the Dutch boy, but without the dike, awash in an ocean of suffering, bailing a bit of water out of a leaky boat now and then.

    It is tempting to elevate such servants to mythical status… but I suspect most of them are 51-49 people too, just putting one foot in front of the other, doing the best they can on any given day.

    I have no explanation for any of this. Maybe God expects us ALL to live such lives, and the rest of us just dog it. Maybe God chooses this extreme form of service for just a few, for reasons invisible to us. Maybe Teresa’s “dark night” wasn’t precisely related to her service. Or maybe it was.

    Oddly, perhaps, I am given hope by stories about the very human doubts/fears/struggles of the saints. I don’t need heroes to whom I cannot relate, and people who don’t struggle with it all just aren’t taking it seriously, or else they live in such an elevated place that I can’t possibly understand them.

    It makes me love her more, not less.

    I know we’re supposed to live in joy. But I think that joy may be a choice of perspective more often than a simple spontaneous reaction to external or internal circumstances.

    I think I am not strong enough to confront what she did, day in/day out, for so long. I wouldn’t be able to hang in there long enough to have a “dark night of the soul”. I get depressed by faculty meetings.

    All I can say is, compared to her, most of us have little excuse not to get over ourselves and experience a little decent joy. We’re all going to lose people we love… but not every week or month or year. We’re all going to suffer some, but we won’t live immersed in the suffering of others.

    I’m going to need someone to remind me of all this the next time I think I have a hard time.

  11. Harmonic Miner

    Cerise, the notion of someone printing out anything I would write, and then reading it again, is giving me writer’s block. I don’t fit in this role. I am a musician.






    OK. (deep breath)


    Your “persistence in not feeling alone and in knowing that [you] may ask for help and/or give thanks when [you] feel the need” sounds like a place to begin, to my ears. When you said, “that’s what MY Christianity was”, I just have the feeling you may have been talking about someone else’s, that was somehow foisted off on you. Was it ever exactly “yours”?

    The equation of “belief” and “faith” is distorted by many, I think. They aren’t the same thing, though there is some overlap, of course. It takes “faith” to pray, or even search. I prefer to use the word “belief” for the acceptance of particular “propositions”. It takes “faith” to act, especially to take risks, out of “belief”. (Even the demons “believe”, probably more accurately than any of us…. but they appear to have acted “faithlessly”.) And it’s possible to act in faith out of just the very simple belief that God wants you to do a certain thing, live a certain way, think a certain thought.

    You make decisions, every day. You made the decision to speak kindly to me just a little while ago, when you might have taken offense at what some might see as “preaching”. That means we have a problem. The reverse of the “problem of evil” is what some have called the “problem of good”. You’re acting in a good way. Why? Why BOTHER?

    Here is what it is, for me. When I went back and began to re-examine the scripture and tradition, I was struck by a couple of things. Not only was the Creation story a reasonable facsimile of a bronze age description of modern cosmological understandings (compare to other “creation myths” to get a flavor of its uniqueness), the story of people told in the scripture just rings true in me, being a pretty good mirror of my own failings and cowardice in the face of the enemy. The scripture tells the story of people I know, and they act just the same now as then.

    And then comes Jesus, who just walks right off the page with insights no person of His era should have had, with guts, humor, honesty and rhetorical skills unmatched by the most trained around him, with compassion and the determination to help, and the willingness to teach, and finally, to give everything for those who despised Him, though he could surely have talked Himself out of it, even with no miraculous intervention…. who needs 10,000 angels when you can tell a joke? I expect He could have turned Caiaphas into a public laughing stock. He always knew how to work a room. Pilate would have had Him back for another run, and sold tickets this time.

    But he didn’t do that.

    The people who knew Him seem to have had a major injection of courage and communication skills, because in the face of serious opposition these pretty ordinary people established church after church. They survived, and thrived. The Acts and the Epistles tell an amazing story.

    I realized that if I met Jesus, I would love Him. I would be afraid of Him, because He would challenge me. I would want to protect Him (uselessly, and selfishly) from what was coming for Him (because of my fear, silly at that, of losing Him… and because I would not want to admit that part of the reason for His suffering was ME). He would know me, and still love me (hard to believe, that… but true). I would not be ABLE to hide from Him, and so would not have to try. I would have with Him the best possible relationship I could have with anyone, because no pretense was possible. If only I could just live with Him, I would learn how to live as I was meant to live, because living with Him would teach me how to really be a human being. I might even become fit for other people to live with.

    Somehow, I realized that in knowing what it would be like to actually MEET Him, I already had, in a nearly pre-theological way (shades of Anselm’s argument for the existence of God). It wasn’t a “belief-first” experience. But it was a “faith-first” experience, to recognize that gradually the “what-if” had become a “what-was”… and what was I going to do about it now? (Sorry, no Headlights From Heaven on the Damascus Road, no single moment of returning from my wandering estate…. just that recognition that the scenery had changed, and I was looking in a different direction than before.) I had to begin with a tiny amount of faith that God might love ME. That is by far the biggest leap of faith, for me. But He finds ways to remind me that it is so, every now and then.

    Being me, the first thing I did was obsess about just what I should believe, thus duplicating all the errors that I’d made earlier in life, admittedly with lots of help from other folks with the same obsession. Don’t get me wrong… what you believe IS important. The wrong beliefs can prevent you from getting anywhere at all, which is why the folks who think “relationship” is more important than “doctrine” are only half right, if that. But honestly, you don’t need to get all that much right about the nature of Jesus to start to know Him. And once you start to do that, if you keep studying and seeking you’ll learn what you need to know, when you need to know it. Heresy, I know, but with your cooperation, the Logos is capable of teaching you more theology than any seminary, with your cooperation and enthusiasm for the endeavor.

    The hard thing for some of us, with prior experience in the church, can be to let go of it and look with fresh eyes. To unload the baggage, so to speak. I’m still working at that. I can’t blame the church for all of it, in any case… some of it was just because I didn’t want to see what I didn’t want to see, though some people in the church need to seriously recheck their priorities. But there is just so much I don’t understand. I can summarize it very succinctly, I think: how to understand the God of the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament? Aye, there’s the rub. It is the same eternal, unchanging God that we see in both, and that is a challenge to anyone’s comfort-level with any established institution of which I’m aware. I think we cannot balance it all intellectually… it is just beyond us. But I think truly seeking relationship with Jesus can answer a lot of questions, at least in the sense of providing personal balance points for making decisions about how to live. Beware of the influence of those who read part of the New Testament as if the rest of it wasn’t there, or as if the Old Testament wasn’t there, either.

    I choose to see it all as an adventure at this point. There are some things I know, by faith (you know that by that I mean a reasonable response to information, right?). The rest is pretty mysterious. But some of it MAY be knowable, in some way or other, and I think we may live in a privileged time in history to learn some of it.

    Something I try to remember, as a touchstone about what’s critical, is that Paul planted churches among gentiles. Then he left town, and went to the next place to do it again. He didn’t have a lot of “scripture” to leave the people when he left, let alone a systematic theology. Certainly nothing even close to the New Testament we have now. Likely not a single “gospel” was available, at least at some times… maybe a little “Q” was floating around, or something like that, possibly another epistle. But without any deep understanding of Old Testament messianic prophecy, or complete stories of Jesus’ life and sayings, or much of anything beyond the basics, these people’s lives were transformed. And what’s more, after Paul left, they brought in more people, who heard it all second hand, but whose lives were changed, too.

    Sure, they were imperfect, and needed some discipline now and then, and some re-direction, etc. But they were THERE, they were together, and they grew. The very scripture and tradition we have now passed through their hands on the way to us. I don’t recall reading that they were ever considered “less Christian” because they didn’t have theology degrees and commentaries in the kitchen. They surely knew a lot less than we do about the tradition as a whole, but they appear to have known enough.

    The takeaway, for me: I think I can really say, Cerise, that God loves you, and he came as a human being FOR you, and continues to seek you today. Really. You don’t have to have all the answers first, or understand how it all works, or all that much of anything at all, except to recognize that you were made for communion with Him, and through Him, with the rest of us.

    I’m not certain of a great deal, but I am sure of that.

  12. harmonicminer

    Speaking of sneaking

    Here’s a bumper sticker I want for my HYBRID Prius

    (which sneaks up on people in parking lots like a ninja, making about as much noise as golf cart… I love to beep the horn lightly and make people jump straight up),


  13. harmonicminer

    rumination sounds so…. bovine

    or wait… maybe it’s a Kant thing…. didn’t he talk a lot about ruminous experience?

    I think I may know someone whose spirit guide is one of the ruminati…

    back to finishing final grades

  14. michael lee Post author

    [quote comment="140333"]rumination sounds so…. bovine

    or wait… maybe it’s a Kant thing…. didn’t he talk a lot about ruminous experience?[/quote]

    that’s “noumenal”, and good lord yes, thousand and thousands of pages worth.

    [quote]back to finishing final grades[/quote]

    I feel your pain. 21 students X 30 page thesis paper = 600 or so pages of pure padded drivel for me to wade through.

  15. Bobby

    simple solution… don’t even grade this one. Send it back to each student and tell them to edit it down to a maximum of 5 pages. That should save you some trouble.

    And it’s good practice for them when they are told their 5:20 song needs to fit about 3:30 of radio space.

  16. corey

    I enjoyed reading through your first post. Not because I’m reveling in your struggle, but because I identify with it. I notice that much of your issue is with Christians and less about Christianity. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the part that stuck out and it’s the part that resonates within me.

    Being a visual person, (and an addict when it comes to similes and metaphors) reading your post gave me this memory of being at the San Diego Zoo a few years ago. There were these panda bears that were supposed to be all the rage and folks gathered in front of the Panda Zone to catch a glimpse (even if it was just a split-second peep of a paw) and stayed there until their attention span was pushed to the limits. I remember getting so frustrated that people would come from the back and push their way through the crowd to get right up against the chain link fence. As if the rest of us WEREN’T looking for pandas- we had just mistaken that area for the Free Standing Section. Seriously, I almost took my belt off and went to work on these people. But In a way, I think that’s my problem with many believers. We’re all in this place for the same reason. We’ve been told that God is there in the God Zone, and He’s worth seeing- so we gather and wait around a bit and try to catch a split-second glimpse of Him. But while we’re all standing faithful, some jackasses have to push and shove to try to get closer. Perhaps they need it more? Perhaps they’re just really zealous? I’m too lazy to really dive into the metaphor that deeply- but I tell you what, that whole push-and-shove thing makes me wanna take my belt off and go to work again.

    To be honest, I never saw the pandas that day but I’m convinced that they were, in fact, there- and I’m sure somebody saw them. When it comes to my faith, I’m equally sure that there is a God who loves me, and I recognize that all of the trappings of the God Zone are in place (as HM so eloquently pointed out above). But I think I can sleep at night not clawing and scratching the people around me to get a little bit closer.

    I hope you’re willing to stand around long enough and let the jackasses do their thing up front. This place we where we wait has arena seating and I’m convinced that the view is just as good back here in back.

  17. michael lee Post author

    If there are two ways to interpret something Phil said, and one of them is deeply offensive in an obscurely slanted way, I say always assume he meant that one.

  18. corey

    I fully agree. I think the lion’s share of our brain power each day should go into mining other people’s statements for ways in which they totally offend us.

  19. Cerise

    I think that this WHOLE set of comments are aimed at ME, since I was the one originally considering killing Phil for calling me bovine. Therefore, you can all go…eat cud! Eat bricks! Nibble cat toenails!

  20. Chad

    Actually Cerise,

    I hate to break it to you, but I had totally forgotten what started it all.


    I value you!

  21. harmonicminer

    personally, I just come back for the abuse… i’m a little sick that way

    the only ruminous reality i can directly apprehend without the intermediary of the senses is the indigestible badinage that passes for conversation around here

    cerise, since we haven’t met (that i remember, at least) in person, i don’t know if you’re a cow, but i sincerely doubt it…. i don’t think Al Gore installed internet connections in dairy farms yet…. i think he’s mad at cows because methane is a worse green-house gas than carbon dioxide….. BTW, celebrate with me, i am somewhat less cow-like than i was, having lost about 40 pounds since June…. i am still, however, a bull…. in a rhetorical china shop, that is

    and mike, i had no idea kant was into coin collecting… i also didn’t know he couldn’t spell…. besides which, nothing i say is limited to only TWO interpretations…. not very pomo of you….

    man-love is out, guys…. the new thing is cyber-love…. people are opening bath houses where you share a cubicle with a laptop you just met

    i just finished my final grades, and i’m celebrating!!!!!!!! ……… oops, the first complaining email just came in…. in the old days, at least you got a few days rest before the complaints arrived…. now the students get the grades online and send complaining email before you’ve even finished posting the other classes….. sheesh

    good thing i didn’t have iChat running……

  22. Melody

    Harmonic miner,

    Since when is one allowed to complain about their grade? I just took my lumps and moved on, figuring that as long as I got a degree at the end of my money I could get a job somewhere. (Since I have a job in the field of music, I must have been somewhat right.)

  23. harmonic miner


    Not only that…. I actually have students who wait until they get their final grade and then ask if they can still turn in assignments and projects they didn’t ever give me.

    I believe it is due to deconstructing the text of the syllabus just a bit too much. It means what it says. Of course, I suppose having to see movies on the weekend instead of doing projects might count as an “extraordinary circumstance”.

    I freely admit to having been a pretty unreliable student as an undergraduate. I turned in LOTS of stuff pretty late, and took my lumps, too. But I don’t recall ever asking a prof if I could turn something in AFTER final grades had already been sent out.

    I mean, sure you can, if you have a working time machine.

  24. harmonic miner

    Yah, but I probably cut you some slack out of the prescient awareness that sooner or later I’d be depending on your sufferance to post on your website….


  25. Sharolyn

    [quote comment="140409"]Hah

    Not only that…. I actually have students who wait until they get their final grade and then ask if they can still turn in assignments and projects they didn’t ever give me.


    Warning: I’m about to sound really old.

    I think before I was a grown-up my friends and I feared adults (authority figures in particular) a lot more than students do today. (Or, maybe it was just me.)

  26. harmonic miner

    No question about it.

    But maybe it wasn’t simply fear, maybe it was respect, and some belief in the general rightness and wrongness of things which is much blurrier to the younger folk now.

    It’s simply irrational, and essentially immoral, to ask for advantages not available to others. I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking for such consideration. I would have been embarrassed to accept it if offered, and would have wondered what was behind it.

    Don’t get me wrong: everyone who knows me knows I’m far from a stickler about any kind of rule, in general…. but there’s a line.

  27. harmonic miner

    Thought about it some more.

    I wonder if there are things students are willing to do in email that they wouldn’t do in person, on the phone, or in snail mail?

    Try not to laugh: I’m going to my church for Christmas Eve service, and they’re so hard up that I’m leading singing.

    Just goes to prove that we can all find a place where we can serve.

  28. Sharolyn

    [quote comment="140382"]i am somewhat less cow-like than i was, having lost about 40 pounds since June…. [/quote]

    I smell a Chad-and-Phil post-Christmas Addison Road diet club!

  29. Pingback: The Third Rail - Doubt | Addison Road

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