Monday, December 19, 2005

Distance as Beauty

Distance is a weird thing. It is the phenomena that makes the ocean vast, the Rockies grand, and the world dynamic. Despite the distance-denying tools of internet and cell phones, I still feel wholly disconnected from the world in which I lived less than a week ago. Sitting in Zurich, Switzerland with snow outside, I find it hard to reconnect with the reality that my Panthers took first place in the division yesterday, or that my Wildcats turned-over an opportunity to gain a major road upset. I am especially distant from people who are just now waking up in warm southern weather as I write this at 3 in the afternoon. Yesterday I felt as if I had traveled to the end of the earth (or perhaps the top of the earth), as my sister and brother-in-law led my dad and I on a snow-showing trek high in the Swiss Alps. As we emerged in the lift near the top of the mountain, the clouds broke beneath us and we were privy to one of the most gorgeous vistas in the world. At an elevation of only about 4,800 feet, we weren't much higher than Denver. But the valley below us was nearly 3,000 feet down and the mountain was steep. As we trudged over and around ridges of freshly packed powder, some of it nearly 5 feet deep, I was entranced by the long-held truth that the eskimos had thousands of words for snow and I was finally able to distinguish between several forms. This snow was the driest derivation of water that I had ever seen. It was a far-cry from the powdery ice of Winterplace, WV. Many times I would have close encounters with the snow (including losing my snowshoe and having to climb out of a drift) and yet the dampest I ever got was a result of my own sweat from the arduous trek. Pausing on the side of that mountain, I was not in a foreign land as many Americans would envision, complete with its bizarre food and incomprehensible language, but rather I was in a world independant of all worlds. There was no culture, no politics and no language up there. There was only nature. People related to one another through the natural medium and not through any other interface. While I could very easily whipped out a cell phone and or a digital camera, nothing could speak in the medium that place represented. It was distanced. I had entered a world of the "other" and felt belonging. As I sit here, I still long for my world. I long for my basketball, my friends and loves, but I do not wish to leave. I wish they would come. This place represents an other-worldliness that distance provides and seclusion maintains. In the end, that is the way it must remain. My sister and I talked about living in one of the small cottages on the mountain, but were then faced with the problems that would engender. That distance only remains beautiful when it is distanced. This is the tormenting reality of all history. All cultures, theorists, romanticists, politicians, and laity ultimately struggle with the inability to grasp beauty for all time. To domesticate the undomesticatable. This is our struggle, and I find solidarity with the multitude of humanity that I partake in it as well.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I'm out for a while

Well, as the exams wear down and time counts down to Christmas break, I figure I will wrap this up until January.
By the time I get back to the states I hope to see Davidson ranked in the Top 25 after beating Syracuse, and starting 7-2. People around school really only to expect to lose 2 more games this season and we are all hoping that we can beat either Syracuse or UNC. That is quite a far cry from last year's .500 record at this time in the season with only two wins in D-I. Are we really that much better now? As coach says, it really is about inches in this game. We could very easily be 2-4 right now instead of 4-2, but we could also be 5-1, if Boris hits a dunk in the second half of the Charlotte game. That perspective really makes one appreciate the various bounces in this game as I guarantee that our opponents put detail and heart into their practices as well. It's only in rare times (eg. Missouri) that one team truly "deserves" to beat the other. On Tuesday night, ESPN will be showing a small segment on the '64-'65 Davidson that was ranked preseason #1 under Lefty Driesell. Sometimes it is quite shocking to think that I'm right in the middle of this school's push for national glory on the basketball stage. Beginning last year, Davidson is pulling away from the Southern Conference (a la Gonzaga) in a very real way. Coach McKillop has monster recruiting classes and my class' Sander, Richards and Meno are forces in their own right. There are few better coaches in the country than Bob and the community outside of Charlotte has already set attendance records for our first three home games.
Turning my attention 15 miles south, the Carolina Panthers take on the Bucs tomorrow in a classic battle for control of the NFC South. In many ways, the Panthers are similar team as our Wildcats. They both struggled to find offensive identity early on in the season. But there were enough weapons and great coaching to pull them through games that they didn't necessarily deserve to win. But as the confidence builds, the team and the fans begin thinking big thoughts. We are already talking NFC Championship games in Charlotte. If Carolina wins out, they have an opportunity to catch both Seattle and Chicago who have tough games remaining. A first round bye and home field advantage would be so key as Carolina hasn't lost in Charlotte but once this season and that season opener was a fluke.
I will be following all of these developments very closely from across the pond and I hope that you will too. Hehe. Da Bears are going down.
I will be heading to U2 on Monday, I will be sure to say hey to Bono for everyone.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I'm back

I'm so sorry for the complete lack of posts and coverage for the last few weeks. It seemed that everytime I was about to post, I became more overcome by all of the things that I had to say and then it just kept piling up. As of now, Davidson basketball is 3-2 with several big wins in Belk Arena. My Carolina Panthers are atop the NFC South with a big win today over the Atlanta Falcons, and exams have completely overtaken my life. Why is it, I ask, that professors decided that you have so much other meaningless crap work that is due right before exams. It's especially frustrating when that work really doesn't contribute to your learning of the subject. This is why I love my Islamic Civ class so much. Our professor doesn't assume that we need tons of work to keep us on track but requires that we are able to synthesize a century and a half of info that covers 8 sovereign nations in the most volatile part of the world. If we can show that we can do it on the test then we get a good grade. That's what I love. I sit back and study and have conversations with people about the failure of Pan-Arab Nationalism to create identity amongst so many people and how that has created this unique culture of Islamic Radicalism as a new possibility of identity. That's a whole lot more interesting to me than writing 5 "pre-reading" discusssions for class periods in October that I didn't keep up with and are just now due. If I didn't do the readings, then shouldn't my inability to articulate meaningful insight on the final exam reflect that? No, of course, not. There are two possible reasons why pre-class discussion papers are due at the end of the course, without keeping track during the semester: 1) we really are babies and it gives us another grade, 2) God forbid that we actually can figure out how to write a good exam without reading every assignment. That wouldn't reflect well on the professor.
So my thoughts for the night. Give me historical trends, facts and ideas and I will synthesize it for you in the most wonderful canopy of historical analysis that you have ever witnessed. But, if you ask me to write one more damn summary of an Oct. 8 reading, I think I might just submit this piece of writing to spite you.