Saturday, April 28, 2007

A New Day Dawns

Well, that's done it. I am now officially graduated with a Bachelor in Arts from Brigham Young University. It seems somewhat surreal, but the Convocation was tremendous fun. My wife walked together (she had disdained to when she graduated all those years ago, but had always regretted it), and we walked across the stage at the same time. There were some who walked with their babies, but we decided we would rather take a chance to sit together while someone else watched her. We love our daughter, but it was still nice to be away from her for a few minutes. My mother came out from Virginia, my wife's father and stepmother were there, and my two brethren with their wife and fiancée, respectively. A respectable crowd and far larger than I expected. Thora's brother and sister came to see her yesterday (thanks again Camilla: you helped out wonderfully). The ceremony itself lasted roughly an hour and had a nice laid back feeling to it.

As I look back over my years at BYU, I must say that they were very good ones. I have had some great teachers. John Gee, Stephen Ricks and Ed Andrus spring to mind immediately as teachers who helped me see a wider world. John Gee was my Egyptian hieroglyphics professor and was, for a long time, who I aspired to be. I have since not chosen Egyptology as my path, but Doctor Gee taught me more than just languages. He showed the great organic whole that knowledge is, and although one may specialize. It is dangerous to specialize to the point where you can no longer see forest for the trees as it were. Doctor Ricks was my Hebrew professor, for many of my Hebrew classes. As I am primarily an Hebraist, I would not be going to Oxford without his good aid. Almost all of the reading which I have done in the Hebrew Bible was done under his direction and with his encouragement. תּודה Ed Andrus was my first sociocultural anthropology instructor, and he built in me a desire and a skill to examine the interconnectedness of things, and the universality of reciprocity. I am no longer an anthropologist, but his training remains with me.

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention Kent Jackson, Dana Pike and David Seely, who helped show me the way, encouraged me in my scholarship, and in the case of Doctors Jackson and Seely, helped pay for my college experience. They are all of them good men and good scholars, and I don't know if I would have been as good as I am today if it weren't for their guidance. I am particular grateful that I got to know Doctor Seely, because I met him so late in my college career, but he was such a profound influence on me. A thanks to all of them. Here is a picture of me standing with Doctor Dana Pike. He was the faculty advisor both for the Ancient Near Eastern Studies major and the Students of the Ancient Near East club, the presidency of which I served in since its rebirth from the Student Society for Ancient Studies, in various capacities.

The hard part here is now that I have finished, I have a larger and more dangerous world ahead of me. Although I am going to be in school of various types for the next seven or so years, Graduate School is a different beast than undergraduate education. Sometimes it makes me a little nervous. BYU and Provo is all that I have known, essentially since my mission, and it is all my wife has known her entire adult life. It is very strange to us to be leaving it. So it goes. I am just resistent to change I guess. I don't mean to be, but I think that all of us are in some ways. A new ward, new callings, a new state for Thora and Lydia, and in due time, a new country and culture. My life is about to get very exciting. I am extremely pleased the way my life has gone thus far, and I look forward with great anticipation and some trepidation to the great and exciting world out there.

On to Oxford.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Two Years

Today marks the second year anniversary of my marriage. They have been two wonderful years, and I trust that there shall indeed be many more of them. We've a few tough times (my many hours of school, her recent miscarriage), but there have been many more good ones. Of especial note in the travel of the past two years is the birth of our beautiful daughter. Life has been good for us.

Now, at the risk of my wife's eternal embarrassment, I wish to write a few reasons why I love her so much:

-I love how good she is with Lydia.
-I love how patient she is with me.
-I love that we have such good conversations.
-I love when she smiles at me.
-I love that she is supportive of me, and my Oxford ambitions.

There are many more, but our daughter is fussy, and Thora is asleep, so I must go now. As Always:


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Though a Boy I May Appear...

Tuesday was my last day of classes as an undergraduate. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Graduating from college is one of things you figure will never actually happen, not because one is stupid, but because it becomes such an important of life for so long. I realise that to the outside, it may seem premature to talk about college ending. After all, I have years of graduate study ahead of me, even allowing that the Oxford program is only one year. However, there is something different about graduate study versus undergraduate work. For one thing, I'll have earned my first set of letters after my name, although the I'd look awfully silly if I started signing my name 'Avram R. Shannon, B.A." I would be authorised to do so, however. The irony of course is that the way my life is going over the next three months, my degrees gives me the ability to wash dishes, which I did with no credentials. How exciting.

In all seriousness, it is a peculiar thing to be facing down my final exam week, finally. It will be a privilege to stand and walk and do all those other nifty graduating senior things, because I earned this pomp and circumstance! The humour of it all is that I appreciate pomp and circumstance on general principle. I love ritual entirely too much for my own good, really I do, and the academic ritual is more ancient than those practised in many churches today. This is partly why I am so upset by Cheney's visit. I do not begrudge him his right to speak with us. He is the vice-president of the United States of America, and deserves some recognition on that point. I am merely upset because he is messing my opportunity for a grand processional. I've waiting for this opportunity as long as I have been in college, and now it is stolen from underneath me because of security measure. It saddens me immensely. My only consolation is to be found in the fact that Oxford is the originator of most of this pomp and circumstance, so I hope to get my fill of it there.

Until next time:


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In the Beginning...

I realise my title for this post is cribbing somewhat, but I say, if you are going to crib, crib from the best. I started a 'blog long before my lovely wife did, but she has in the space of a few short weeks put me to an open shame. I don't know where my misgivings about writing a web log derive from. Maybe it is the idea that some how anything I write on this 'blog could be used against, if it were ever traced to me. I am going into scholarship, and the Academy is like a very nasty trade union: one must follow their rules and standards, and no working on the side. Even the above statement is a dangerous one if things got out. It may be that I am too wary, and I simply need to relax a little bit. Another difficulty may have been in knowing what to write. I wanted to put in something more than news. However, as expressed above, I didn't want to put any of the ideas related to my scholarship here. I have decided to chuck it all and write both news and other ideas, although not necessarily related specifically to my scholarship.

For one thing, I have been accepted to study at the University of Oxford, to read for a Master of Studies degree in Jewish Studies. If going to Oxford isn't worth writing about, I don't know what is (I realise that this is the same idea that drove the creation of my wife's 'blog. I don't care. I can write if I want to. Besides, there are generally two sides to every story). I am afraid I too much appreciate the honors of men to turn down an opportunity to attend at what is likely the most prestigious university in the English speaking world. You have to wear "the black robes of the false priesthood" to even take tests! You can see on the right here the robe that I need to wear when matriculating, taking tests, and eating in the presence of the Dons in my college, which I shall have to do periodically. The Masters robe is niftier than the American equivalent as well. It isn't as nice as the other one, but you can see a picture of it here one the left. The hood is made out of silk, which why the whole ensemble costs over 200 pounds sterling. I'll have to decide whether or not it is worth it to buy it, since I am getting my doctorate anyway. I intend to buy the hood regardless, but I haven't yet convince my wife.

Anyway, this 'blog is now officially started and opened, so one may expect periodic updates lest I be shown up entirely by my wife. I do not think that I shall be able to post as often as she, since I usually have less disposable time than she, but I shall endeavor to continue to write my thoughts about studying at Oxford and life after undergraduate work. Until next time, and to crib from another author, not near so great: