Ode to Room 347
Allow me to indulge, dear readers, in the spirit of the season as I dedicate this week’s letter [and I do consider them letters] to my dear friends of Room 347.
If heaven has Saturdays, I plan to spend them all sitting at a roundtable in a brilliant library with 30-foot wooden ladders and dark-wood shelves. And there I’d like to chat with some of the best thinkers and authors of the past. How totally content I would be to merely sit and listen to the likes of Wilde, Camus, and Dostoyevsky, and ask them questions over some red wine.
For now I’ll spend my Saturdays hiking and spending time in my mind in the woods, a solid second best for sure. But, I still do think about what life would be like if I could spend my Saturdays in that library with those incredible minds. Saturdays are, after all, really great days.
But, Mondays are the best these days because they’re as close as I come to that dream. Every Monday at 5:15, I climb the stairs in Hoffmann Hall to a cozy, nearly forgotten room where I spend the next hour or so in an almost heavenly Saturday.
Now please, do hold with me until the end here. This isn’t a religious letter, and it could be most beneficial for those who are especially opposed to religious adherences. So, please, tuck any assumptions and judgments away for just a short while longer.
These meetings are formally referred to as Bible studies. And though we do, indeed, evaluate and discuss Biblical lines, we do so, so much more than that.
Picture this: this group is made up of, I kid you not, an atheist, an agnostic, a Muslim leader, some pretty die hard Catholics, at least one protestant, and couple of seekers. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like the beginning of a very off-color joke. But I’ll tell you, these meetings, this group, is so very special and the conversations we’ve had enriched my own life so much. And, those who have come and gone because of distance, graduation, whatever, have said similar things.
Just this week I was randomly contacted by two people who used to attend who told me they missed the group terribly and the discussions even more.
To use more contemporary vernacular, we are all really just a bunch of ‘randos’ who have no real reason to be together other than the fact that we discovered through some coincidental grape vine that we have similar interests and a need for valuable and difficult conversation. And more, that we needed more diverse minds with which to have those conversations.
So, this isn’t a call to evangelize and recruit for this Bible study. As you’ve probably realized, we’re all really there to learn from one another, not to convert each other. I don’t think that any of us ever expected that this small meeting would turn into what it has, or that it would grab the attention of the people that it has.
However, in retrospect, I can honestly say that these people have had the single biggest impact on the way that I think. And more importantly, the way that I love because of the culture that has manifested itself in that room, one that we all carry with us now.
I’m not sure if our facilitator knows it, but it’s a pretty understood thing between those of us who attend the study that his teachings have impacted all of us in unbelievable ways. Nowhere else on this campus have so many minds been opened and so many hearts brought together.
I’m a senior now and reflecting on my college career is something I’ve been doing a lot of. When I left for college, I wanted so badly to break free from the manufactured, mass-produced teachings of my generic high school education where we teach students to be producers, not thinkers. (Did you really think I’d make it to the end without mentioning social justice?).
Twice this week I’ve been told I have a beautiful mind, and that is probably the highest compliment I’ve ever been given, though not because I think it’s true. It’s the best because I know that if I have conveyed this in anyway, it is merely a reflection of the lessons I’ve taken from the beautiful minds in room 347. And that is a gift that goes far beyond any classroom.