I don’t know where to begin.
It’s so important to me, and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to convey it.
For regular readers of my blog, and to my personal friends, you know my passions run high. I’m a carpe-diem-live-the-hell-out-of-your-life kind of a gal. You’ve read my blogs about my kids, about my racing, about my training/traveling/adventure experiences.
You know I see an opportunity and get all over it. You know I open up and embrace it and then try to express what it felt/looked/smelled/tasted like. It’s an ego stroke to believe that sometimes I accomplish that. When you share with me that you understood or sympathized or felt the same way, I know I’ve been able to piece together the right words to convey this.
I have absolutely no illusion about this one. I will not be able to tell you what this night was like. Too deep, too personal, too profound. But I’m going to do what passes for that on this blog.
I don’t crush on pop culture. I love my music, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn are adorable, I’d love to shake Obama’s hand, but I don’t fangirl it up. My heroes are not celebrities or rock stars or sports stars. My heroes are academics.
Last week I got word that one of my favorite authors was going to speak at the MTSU campus. Bart Ehrman has written several books, mostly related to Christian scripture and how it came to be what it is and the story behind it. When my children were teenagers, and were asking those very typical teenager questions about the faith in which they had been brought up, I was stumped. I told them I would research and Find Answers. I would resolve, for them and me, the problem of suffering, the contradictions in the bible, the obvious errors.
My dad had given me my first Ehrman book. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdelene. I read it. I read another one. I read all of them. Every book he had written. And, oh, did I find answers. My kids and I discussed and argued and discussed again. They grew and we talked. They went away to college and we talked. They lived in New Zealand, Paris, California, Colorado, and we talked.
We read Ehrman, Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, and, of course, Hitch. Even now, as they have become young adults, we eagerly attack the topic when we get together. For little Southern Baptist Sunday School children, they are outrageously confident. Confident in their beliefs, themselves, and their place in the multiverse; with a confidence and strength that comes with knowledge. Their mom is too.
All of that to get here. Tonight, I met Bart Ehrman. I listened to his lecture in the amphitheatre at MTSU. He was wonderful – warm and funny and articulate and so smart it burned. THEN I got my books signed. At the table where he was signing, I stood, not speaking. He had to ask me my name; it was all I could do to spell it, and then I got out three more syllables – my dad’s name: J-A-Y. I was euphoric.
It Got Better.
A terribly gracious man, a professor in the philosophy department, offered his home for a reception following the lecture. I couldn’t believe it was being made public, but I was not going to turn this down. I GPSed my ass over to the house, and there he was. Chatting, like a human being, with other human beings. Somehow, and I don’t really remember how, I was sitting on the couch next to him talking about triathlons and running and agnoticism and life and OH MY GOD I was talking to Bart Ehrman. My internal emotion pendulum swung between pleasantly chatting with an interesting person, and a full-on, full-body freakout.
It is almost 2 am. I have not come down yet. I am so sleepy I can’t keep my eyes open, but I don’t want to let this night pass without writing this down. This is on the list. The 10 list. You know, the 10 most significant days in your life. I don’t want to overdramatize, but this was a big deal. Colossal. Stupendous. Unforgettable.
Give me another chance. Call and ask me about it. Let’s discuss it over coffee and I’ll do a better job of describing what this was like. This blog is my second-favorite medium of communicating, and I know I can do better.
Exhilaration is giving way to exhaustion. Maybe I’ll revisit and edit this rambly, crushy, stalker/creepy post. Or not.
Have your idols. Conventional wisdom says they’re only images, larger than life, will only disappoint, can’t live up to your expectations. Keep it. This time, this night, one of mine came through.
Thanks for reading.
February 19, 2011 at 8:05 am
I can hear, no feel, the excitement in you. I am happy for your moment with someone with whom you so identify. I know it’s amazing for you. Guess I’ll wait until you come back down to earth. 🙂 You may never.
February 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm
Wish I could have heard this presentation and engaged in conversation with Dr. Ehrman. I have not read any of his books yet, but now have that on my “to do list” in the near future. The words of your blog almost quiver with excitement…it translates that your skin can barely contain your “self.” When we plan our LONG conversation come May or so…we simply must also get together with my good friend, teacher and pastor of community – Ange Humphrey-Relyea. She is simply one of those persons that it would be a shame to go through this life and never encounter. She is relentless in her pursuit of truth about biblical teaching and she readily shares her findings during our class on Sunday mornings. Much of what I understand about the inconsistencies and issues with the origins of biblical writings comes from those classes and discussions with Ange. She is likewise an intelligent, warm, engaging person that I feel very drawn to. I am thrilled for your encounter and afterglow.
February 21, 2011 at 9:10 am
You should leave this as it is so we can all appreciate your first impression. Don’t hesitate to write a follow-up post, though.