July 30
July 30 E-mail

Diana Pavlac Glyer gave a beautiful delivery of her plenary address, "C. S. Lewis and the Algebra of Friendship."  Using a paragraph from The Four Loves (Charles Lamb's statement regarding three friends -- A, B, and C -- when A dies, C loses A's part in B as well as A), she proposed that friends call forth different aspects of the self.  Being in community enriches us.  She illustrated this by showing the influence of Warren Lewis, Arthur Greeves, and William Kirkpatrick on C. S. Lewis's life.  Her conclusion: What am I helping others to become?  That was a huge "takeaway" point for me.  I want to create an atmosphere that will draw others out.  I want them to feel safe to take a chance and voice an idea.  I want to encourage dialog, not monologue.  To do so, I need to be more comfortable with spontaneity and less scripted. 

Geneticist Francis Collins spoke next.  His lecture was similar to those I've heard him deliver before.  The new piece for me was a power point slide he showed of a side-by-side comparison of the York Minster rose window and the view looking down the axis of the double helix DNA molecule.  The pattern, symmetry and colors of both were beautiful.  When I read his book, The Language of God, last fall, I actually circled each time he used the word "elegant."  Sometimes it modified a mathematical equation, sometimes a bacterial flagellum, sometimes the DNA molecule.  After viewing the slide, I understand why Collins resorts so often to "elegant."  It's simply the best word for God's handiwork.

The meditation this morning was given by an Oxford professor of mathematics and science, John Lennox.  He spoke on Revelation 4 and seemed particularly fascinated by the geometry of the heavenly throne room.  I never would have paused in my reading of the passage to consider geometry.  But a mathematician would!  One more example of how I am blessed by being around believers from various disciplines.  They open up new dimensions for pondering spiritual truth.  Dr. Lennox also said that he associates doors with C. S. Lewis ... both doors to the lecture room and doors to another world.  He tied this in with Rev. 4:1, John seeing a door standing open in heaven.

lunch at bodleian

My "lunchroom" on the Bodleian steps 

It was a clear, sunny day, so after a picnic lunch on the steps of the Bodleian (yoghurt and croissant), I decided to climb the tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.  Built in the 14th century, the tower would not pass building codes in the United States.  When part of the climb involved going out on an iron-grated fire escape, I should have reconsidered; nevertheless, I naively continued on.  Eventually I found myself in a circular stone stairwell about two feet wide.  The steps were 10 inches deep at the outer edge, fading to an inch at the axis.  No handrail!  Just a rope to cling to ... and cling I did! 

At one point, I stopped and contemplated the wisdom of going forward.  Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.  I have a fear of heights.  Plus I had taken a dose of medication at lunch that leaves me a bit lightheaded.  Maybe I'm too old for this sort of thing.  But frankly, going down didn't look much better, so with a fresh layer of cold sweat and a pounding heart, I kept climbing up. 

Upon reaching the top, I saw that the concrete parapet was merely waist high.  A person would have no trouble climbing (or falling) over the edge.  The narrow walkway was one abreast.  I hugged the side of the tower and slowly crawled around all four sides.  When another tourist came around the corner, I nearly jumped out of my skin.  After gingerly taking some photos (after all, that's why people climb this tower), I began my descent. 

all souls college

All Soul's College (as seen from the top of the tower) 

high street

High Street

 Going down was worse!  With the tug of gravity, I feared pitching forward.  The steps were so narrow; my foot hung over the edge.  I couldn't get it completely on the step.  The rope was essential, but sweaty palms made holding on more difficult.  When I reached bottom, I was glad I climbed the tower and resolved never to do it again.  The inside of the St Mary is equally remarkable.  I gazed a while at the pulpit from which  Lewis preached "The Weight of Glory." 

pulpit-st mary

C.S. Lewis preached "The Weight of Glory" from this pulpit 

At 2:30, I went to the next installment of Diana Glyer's Inkings workshop.  The part that stuck with me the most was about being a "resonator."  A resonater vibrates with you.  You can resonate even if you haven't had the same experience.  Diana distinguished encouragement (a quick "you can do it") from resonating ("you really understand the obstacles I'm facing right now").  A resonater does more than encourage, she affirms feelings, reflects back, and doesn't resort to quick fixes.  How am I doing as a resonater?  All too often, I'm busy planning my next witty comment or rejoinder to listen fully to the speaker.  I need to listen beneath the words and devote my energy to hearing the other person. 

At dinner I sat next to man who teaches at Gordon College and, as it turns out, knows my brother- and sister-in-law from church.  It truly is a small world.  After dinner, we went back to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin to hear a concert by the City of Oxford Orchestra.  I enjoyed the music anchored in a pew, relieved that my tower adventure was over.