Almost every day has been foggy, like that heavy fog Dad and I drove through on the way back home from Macomb. We dropped David off at college and we were driving through the fog and we couldn’t see three feet ahead of the headlights and it was the first time I heard Dad swear and so we stopped driving so I could find an Old Country Inn on the GPS (because he liked the beds), but it was the first time I had used the GPS and I was worried that I might be too slow or the way I used it might irritate him. So I told him to do it, because I didn’t know how to. And so we found an Old Country Inn and inadvertently found a memory, which is why this paragraph exists. And not only did we find a memory, I found a scale to put levels of fog on, from no fog to that thick fog we drove through on the way back home from Macomb.
We live across from a police station or a jail or whatever it is–a place of law, which is just as likely hold offices as it does cells–and I always find it fascinating to watch the people standing at the chain-link fence, asking to get in. There is this voice you can hear over the intercom and even across the street that either tells the visitors to be patient or to come in. Sometimes, the visitors never go in; they just stand at the chain-link fence and smoke for hours and hours. And honestly, I don’t get it. Why do they stand there? Are they visitors? Why do they continue to visit people? And there is always one woman, slightly overweight, wearing a pink blouse and smoking, brushing back her frazzled hair. I swear. Ask my roommates.
As I was walking here this morning, down the hill and into the coffeeshop and onto this couch, I had this dialogue with myself. I started it by thinking about how and why I daydream about the future. Why am I so inclined to do that? Well, I didn’t answer my own question, but it somehow led me into daydreaming about the future. And when I say I daydream about the future, I mean that I work out certain sequences of events and possibilities which do not exist. When I daydream about the future, I am cogitating ephemeral fiction.
This certain time, I was cogitating the possibility of staying in Moscow, this small college town, for a long time. What might happen? Well, I figured, if I stayed here, I would likely stay within the same community, even though I would make forays into more foreign territories–that is my nature–but if I stayed interested in the same people and the same institutions, I would likely be asked to take on an increasing amount of responsibility. Let’s say, if I was here for thirty years (which is longer than the institutions which drew me here have been around), would I be asked to be the president of New Saint Andrews? Hypothetically, if I stayed around and began as the janitor of New Saint Andrews and then eased very nicely into teaching theology, would I then be asked to be president?
If I was asked to be president, I would immediately have a million ideas for how to infuse this small college with my own interests. The million ideas that have passed by my eyes–beginning as a puerile and general interest in “communes” to artist colonies to intentional communities to monasteries to Christian communities (notice the evolution and notice, too, that none of these institutions are in direct competition)–these ideas would come knocking on my door and say, “Remember me?” And I would say, “Oh, oh yes, well I remember you, but I never had a chance really to know you, as in, to make you so directly.” And I would wonder, how could I achieve what I would want using this existing institution, this college that I grew up in?
And hypothetically, if there was a certain person that asked me, I would tell him, “Thank you, but I can’t accept this.” I wouldn’t become president, because I know that I would try to change the institution to something entirely different than what it was made to be. If I want to make the thing that I have in my head (and even though I reference it vaguely, I know that if I was presented with an opportunity, I would know whether or not that opportunity led to it), I would have to go someplace else. New Saint Andrews is not what I want to make, but it is something I would continue to support. It’s just a different vision.
And I am still left wondering if this is a place where I want to be for a long time. But I am confident that it is nothing I need to worry about or something I can even decide. Obviously, I am here now and I continue to want to be here. And the only way I can determine my own future is to continue overlooking tinny desires and fostering the little buds flicking themselves up from the ground. Jesus pictured the kingdom of God as a tree growing from a mustard seed. I think a desire fed rightly is the same image. A desire grows into a tree and can bring shelter to people that don’t have any.
I like the idea of a desire, a thing we cannot exactly see, growing into the maturity of matter. A desire is a feeling we have, a compulsion or a movement towards, and if we continue to feed it, it transforms into a physical thing. There was a vague desire for community and then in a few years, churches. I have a vague desire for “that thing” and then sometime, I will see it and I can put a name to it and it will exist and have a name. And I find the existence of formed desires–they are all around me or under me, this couch–to be inspiring. That coffee. We create what we see in our minds, we move out of the fog and find a place to rest and eat something.