June 8th –Tuesday
Second day of class! Feeling the jetlag today, and walked to class this morning in a rather groggy state, cup of [British green] tea in hand. Also, for some reason I feel oddly uncomfortable/shy, so that combined with my sleepiness led to a glorious absence of participation/intent [just] listening during our discussions of St. Paul’s, the Tate Modern, and Conrad’s The Secret Agent. And hang back and listen was about all I could do in a very lively discussion covering topics from the role of architecture in religion and politics to anarchy and authoritarianism in Conrad’s novel. I learned a lot, though, and the conversation reminded me that I need to turn that observant, academically curious side of my brain back on full-force lest my classroom time here be wasted through passivity and indifference. Not that discussion participation is a good or bad thing in and of itself (active listening, anyone?), but my silence is normally because I’m scared to speak up or else just to lazy to raise my hand. But since those ideas were never raised, I’ll bring one up here: while we were at St. Paul’s, I noticed these words in large letters on the door: “This is the house of God; this is the gate to Heaven.” They intrigued me, for while a church certainly is the house of God, the bold proclamation came off as a boast of sorts. That statement holds many implications, possible readings, such as THIS [a * please note * gloriously tall, ornate, luxurious cathedral where the great men of England are buried and honored] is the house of God; THIS [righteous, powerful, unmistakably BRITISH church] is the gate to Heaven. The gate to heaven is in England? Architecture is quite powerful, more than just blueprints and roofs and slabs of marble –it speaks a message.
Later this afternoon, armed with umbrellas and ponchos, most of us followed our program director and his wife out into the rain to tour Regent’s Park, the lovely park that houses the college we’re staying at. Talk about gorgeous -even in the rain. Timo, a dear friend from the Shanghai program who’s studying abroad here at the moment, told me that London is, for the most part, a hard sort of city, with lots of buildings and concrete everywhere. But Regent’s Park is a refreshing circle of relaxation and, well, GREEN amidst the gray bustling modernity/weathered history –gardens and trees and a zoo and an outdoor theatre and a lake and lush green rolling hills. [Have I mentioned that I LOVE lush green rolling hills?] So. Gorgeous. I’m waiting for the day I can just grab a book and sit in a garden and read for hours on end.
Around the area is also a place where houseboats float down the river, Yeats’ old house (shout-out to Annie!), and several film studios. I never realized how big on film production London is; we walked by several areas where movies have been filmed.
The past couple days, there’s been a verse going on in my head lately, from Isaiah 41: “You are my chosen one, and I will not cast you away,” from God to me. I think on these kinds of trips I am quite vulnerable to temptation and doubt and guilt. Being tired, never knowing exactly where I am (lol…), living in a different culture is going to get to me; last year’s Shanghai trip taught me that. I get the feeling this summer isn’t going to be much easier as far as that goes. But. I am His chosen, and He will not cast me away. I read Isaiah 43 last night as I’m studying it with some friends, and it reminded me that I have nothing to fear, for my God is the Holy One of Israel, and I am precious in His sight. I’ve read that passage over and over and over, and though it’s still quite difficult to take in, I’m going to claim it for all its worth. I am chosen, and He will not cast me away.