Of school and (auto)biographies

Well, today I handed in the last assignment for that twice-extended course from last semester. It feels good, but not as good as I had expected. There is more to do, I guess. This week I’m in class all day, every day for a one-week modular, called “Pastoral Theology”. Modulars are nice because after a full day in class I feel justified in not doing any schoolwork in the evening. I may regret that later, but that’s where I’m at right now.

Next week it’s back to business, but finishing that first semester course and getting through another course (at least its classroom part) makes next week feel a bit like a new start. There’s still a lot of work to do before I’m done, but I’m not starting off behind. I’m right where I’m supposed to be, more less.

* * *

I haven’t done a whole lot of non-school reading this semester. What I have read, usually before going to sleep, has been (auto)biographies. It feels like it might be that kind of reading year. It began with Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor: A Memoir. It was very good. I sometimes feel like Peterson was working in an ideal situation of sorts–he planted a church and pastored that same church for 29 years. It’s not a situation most pastors find themselves in. But then Peterson makes it clear that his story is not one we should try to imitate, as if it’s a blueprint for successful pastoral life. But he nevertheless provides useful insight into the life and practice of a pastor that I can walk away with.

Next I tried to get into Frances Donaldson’s authorized biography of P.G. Wodehouse.  I had been looking forward to that one for a while. It was mildly interesting, mostly because the lengthy introduction sang the praises of Wodehouse’s writing style, including reflections from his more-respected-in-literary-circles contemporaries. I, too, sing those praises. But it wasn’t smooth reading and, quite frankly, Donaldson spends more time psychoanalyzing Wodehouse than I care to read about. I quit partway through the first chapter. I may pick it up again in the future.

The next day I started reading Stanley Hauerwas’ Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir. Hauerwas is always provocative and this book is no exception. It’s sometimes a little too detailed in terms of the specifics of his education, but it has nevertheless been a good read so far. I pick it up whenever I have a spare moment. It is in the introductory chapter where Hauerwas has this wonderful line:

I have…tried to live a life I hope is unintelligible if the God we Christians worship does not exist.

I like that. I was hooked after that.

What’s next? Maybe Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Or maybe another volume from Frederick Buechner’s series of autobiographies. Or maybe I’ll re-read Carpenter’s Tolkien biography.

I’m not sure what the appeal of the (auto)biography is. It’s partially about getting a look inside the life of someone you admire or relate to. Maybe there’s a bit of vicarious living that goes on, too.