12 September 2007

Oxford journals 3

This one's a little heated; I hope the don't get offended. No, wait, in fact, I do... ;)

12. September. 2007
Today, I don’t think I’ve ever been so frustrated after a lecture in my life. I briefly mentioned in my previous journal entry that most of the information and lectures we’ve received have been focused on rich, or royal, white men and how they’ve influenced this culture. In our lecture today on “What America thinks of the World”, we were told that our civilization was built on the backs of giants. That’s not true; actually, Britain’s—and later the United States’—economic, industrial, and imperial successes were not due to the cleverness of intellects, admirals, and kings. They came from the enslavement of African natives; the oppression of Irish, Welsh, and Scottish people; the agonizing labor of the working class during the Industrial Revolution; and the genocide of the indigenous peoples who lived in the Americas. (And the women who were forced in their narrow and rigid gender roles, and were not considered innately equal to men in the eyes of God.) I have been struggling at times while being in this country and studying at this esteemed university: though I understand what a great opportunity it is to be here among the greats, I cannot but help to think of all of those in this very country, let alone around the world, that cannot be here because they operate in such a rigid and determining class perspective. At times, I cannot, in good conscious, justify being here.
Now I know that the above verbal rampage is very revealing of my worldview: I am a young, idealistic college student who has learned a lot about life, but has experienced very little of it. I know that my perspective must seem na├»ve and socialistic to my elders. But I have just spent the last two years of my life learning that the victors and the oppressors write history; and that so many people’s stories and experiences have been lessened or silenced. I feel that as a disciple of Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate voice and comfort to the oppressed, that it is my duty and calling to give a voice to these people, whomever they are. I have not been hearing the voices of these people here in Oxford, but only small murmurs as they are casual mentioned in passing.
I had an opportunity to study in South Africa this semester in a brand new program established by my University. I decided not to go because I did not like the way the program was set up, but also because I was accepted to this program in Oxford. I just wonder if I am justified in turning down an opportunity to experience South Africa to live and study in the country that held it in it’s regime for so long.
My friend wisely reminded me today that every place has its history and its demons. Also, my British Civilization book often made me wish my country (who’s social ills I could write about for pages) enacted some more civil services and environmental actions, etc. I suppose my naivety and youthfulness has shown clearly through this journal entry. I know that my experience here while studying this society and history will give me much wisdom, and a deeper perspective on life, faith, society, and the endeavors of humankind. I just pray that my wisdom and experience don’t replace my passion for change with complacency.

Oxford journals 2

6. September. 2007
This city is spectacular. I’m not sure why places that are old—and, at times, dilapidated—carry this sense of wisdom and legitimacy. It sometimes feels like these quaint stone buildings and cobblestone streets have knowledge and insight preserved in them, and we are privileged enough to walk among them, hoping that their secrets will be transferred to us. I know logically there is no more wisdom in the buildings of Christ’s Church College than in trees pressed to make this paper, but I cannot help but be rejuvenated by this connection to the ancient. Well, ancient by my standards. The stark difference in how the British see history and time and how we Americans see it, as taught to us in the first lecture by Dr. Schuettinger, is probably the most insightful piece of knowledge that I’ve gained thus far, because it’s completely shaping how I interpret these lectures on British history. The British seem to actually learn from the past, or at least remember it. As we learned in our lectures today on British History 1485-1660, and 1660-1800, the fact that the intrusion of Charles I on Parliament in 1642 was still fresh in the memories of 18th century Britons two hundred years later, and that still today the effects of that invasion is evident in the fact that British police officers don’t carry guns, is astounding to me. I can’t comprehend consciously living my life according to what happened two hundred years ago, still living in the strong memory of it. Right now, without straining the Rolodex of American history facts stored up in my mind, I cannot think of any event that occurred in 1807 on the North American continent that I feel so strongly connected to that it affects how I perceive the world today. Fifty years ago, perhaps, but not two hundred. American culture is always one that is moving forward, which I think is to our benefit, but will also be to our demise. This fact about Britain surprised me, for I had always presumed that it was a much more progressive state than mine; maybe not as progressive as they are in Continental Europe, but progressive nonetheless. Though surprising, I was happy to learn this fact, as I have always had an affinity with all things old. I really hope that I can use this British perspective on the world when I return home, yet retain some of my very American optimism.

Oxford journals

'ello! I'm here in Oxford, which would seem to encourage more blogging, but I am actually keeping a journal as a class assignment. So, I thought I'd put the more invigorating ones up here, thus keeping up on my homework and keeping everyone up-to-date with my doings here in Europe. Here is the first one I wrote for my journal. I'll also try to add pictures if possible; if not, visit my facebook page!

4th September 2007
I feel that more introduction is needed for this journal to explain this journey thus far, but I’m not sure what I can give at this point. My mind is in a turbulent whirlwind, my body is aching with fatigue and jet lag, and my heart is attempting to interpret and embrace everything in this new, beautiful, and exciting place. I am concerned that I’ll never collect my displaced parts and put them back together in time to run this seemingly impossible race of scholarship here at Oxford. I feel that my mind, body, heart, and soul are in no acceptable state to be given: I need more time to read my text, to interpret my surroundings, to be at peace with all of the things that I’ve left behind. But, as Dr. Tisdale said in our Orientation meeting this morning, those are the things that God desires of me—they are the worthy sacrifices He expects me to joyfully give in path of discipleship that I have chosen.
I suppose what intimidates me most is the fact that I feel so unprepared—and frankly, unworthy of participating in this program. I am just not sure I can do it. Much of what Dr. Schuettinger spoke of during the introduction to the Oxford Academic System resonated with what I would express my educational experience to be: I am able to not only get by, but succeed academically based on my ability to repeat facts and ideas that have been given to me by my educators. I guess God fashioned me to get good grades in the American higher education system by giving me the uncanny ability to retain odd information such as dates and theorists and page numbers, and the gift to write my way out of almost anything. Upon hearing how different the educational system in Oxford is here—and, also, how much more effective it is—I cannot help but wondering if I really am as great of a student that I have always believed. I confess, I always struggle to critically thinking and analyze all information and opinion that is placed in front of me; I have interpreted this as my desire to learn more of a subject that I am unfamiliar with, but perhaps I am simply taking the easy path towards a degree. It’s interesting, and slightly amusing, that the American higher education system greatly reflects how much we highly value efficiency over quality: the more degrees we can crank out, the more people are filling the needed jobs in the workplace, and if we do this quickly, the more stimulated the economy. Also, my innate reaction of fear and offence to the concept of my writing and research being mutilated on the spot during my tutorials also reflects my homeland’s desire to ensure that all in the younger generations feel good about themselves, regardless of the quality of work or personhood that they produce. (This, however, I am not so sure I quite disagree with just yet—not everyone is fashioned to be scholars, yet everyone holds immense value in society and in the eyes of God.)
My prayer for my time in Oxford is that God transforms every aspect of me into the woman He wants me to be, and that I am always seeking to glorify Him and be an agent of shalom on this earth. I am slowly beginning to understand that to do so, I have to sacrifice this bizarre blend of ethnocentrism and treasonous cynicism that I am constantly experiencing to Him. I must interpret my experience through God’s perspective, allowing Him to illuminate all that I am learning and encountering.