I’ve reached something of a critical mass in the interaction between loneliness, lack of energy, and being overwhelmed at what I have left to do on the PhD. Critical mass gained, this journal is the reaction. I need some outlet to record a history of my doings from between 7:30a-5p during the next few months. If anyone wishes to read, the following will be a window into what it’s like to try to write a dissertation. What cures loneliness like talking out loud to no one in particular? (i.e., blogging)
I have written a bit over 125 pages so far. I have roughly 20 pages of introduction, 65 pages on the psychology of Thomas Aquinas, and 42 on the medieval developments between Aquinas and Calvin. I plan to write another 25-35 on Calvin’s psychology, before turning to my constructive argument.
For just the barest background: Basically, I think that evangelical theologians assume a very simplistic and uncritical psychology for talking about human emotion. My concern is that this simplistic psychology burdens people who suffer with guilt over their negative emotion without recognizing the practical and communal tools for dealing with them that are in the Bible. My goal is to assess this simplistic psychology and to suggest a better one. I’m trying to help pastors not to hurt their weakest people (obviously, intentional harm is not the only type).
How am I doing this? By looking at the theological development of psychology both for understanding how we got here and for recovering more humane categories. By “category” I am referring to the “faculty” or “process” to which we ascribe emotion. Is it a movement of the will (and therefore I am culpable)? Is it a movement of the body (and therefore I am not culpable)? Or is it other combination? I’m basically trying to answer the question that we all face when we’re face with an emotion we don’t like: what is this? Why am I feeling this way?
The Set Up
Right now I’m sitting at Corner Bakery on highway 50 in Kenosha, WI. It’s a new place for me, first time today. It has a good mix of OK coffee, food options, free wifi, but also some loud talkers complaining about “grown men in the United States frickin’ army.” So, headphones are a must. The things you overhear at coffee shops… Also, Spotify Premium student edition is tuned to Tallis Scholars–very ironically “The Music of Fifty Shades of Grey”–nothing like putting lyrics like “I have never put my hope in any other but in You, O God of Israel who can show both anger and graciousness, and who absolves all the sins of suffering man” as the (Latin) background for a movie about sadomasochism.
Today, I have two big goals:
(1) Finish what will be “Chapter 3” (after I split the Aquinas chapter into two).
This will require some discipline, since I’ve been bogged down by describing the “passions” in John Duns Scotus for a few days. I’m always warring with my own internal standards for thoroughness. The more thorough I am, the less likely I am to finish this dissertation within the next 12 months. I honestly feel like I’m constantly trying to dumb down the dissertation, making it more accessible to general scholars. The problem is I’m trying to cover from the middle of the 13th century to the end of the 16th century. This is a ton of historical ground to cover, but my own internal standards push me to be fair to all the theologians I cover (Interrupted here by a near shout: “she was the little birdie in his ear telling him not to marry me!” I need to get active noise canceling headphones). I want to be sure I really understand them, and am tempted to wax eloquent about all the things I’ve learned in the countless books and articles I’m consulting. I constantly feel like I’m pouring days into what will be one paragraph in the dissertation.
(2) Make a preliminary outline of Michael Allen and Scott Swain’s Reformed Catholicity for a book review.
(Thanks be to God; the loud talkers just walked out)