Saturday, January 30, 2016

Conception -- Motorcycles -- Mount Michael Alums and Students -- Robert Prisig

Many of those who have followed my blog over the past few years are wondering what has happened to me, for I have not posted any new ones for quite some time. There are numerous reasons why this happened and I do not need to go into all of those reasons, but one would be dealing with new technology and learning a new system.

I can't say that I have mastered the new system, but I may have a good enough grasp of it to continue blogging. I thought that I should have some connection to some older blogs and the material there and where I left off when blogging. So the connection to all of this would be: MOTORCYCLES. That may sound very strange but it is, indeed, the truth.

When I was at Conception Abbey and Seminary year, I met and worked with a seminarian who is enamored by motorcycles and maintaining them. His name is Josh Carroll from the Springfield -- Cape Girardeau Diocese in Missouri. Below is his motorcycle with Conception in the background. Below that photo is Josh and his bike.



In the many visits with Josh over the year, I found out that he was fan of the author Robert Pirsig, most famous for ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE. The minute Josh mentioned this to me, I realized that this author and book were deeply rooted in me as well, but it was not because of motorcycles or maintaining them. The roots would go back to when the book was first published and to my teaching days at Mount Michael. The book was published in 1974. I remember working with it then because I was just finishing my studies in Philosophy. In my teaching days, (it would have been in 1997), one of my students gave me this book with this note written in it. "To: Fr. John as a token of my unending gratitude for all you have taught me." signed Riley McNiff --class of 1997. So I knew I had this book when Josh Carroll started talking about it. I have re-read the book and spent time with it since Josh first brought it up.  

It is always interesting for me to come back to a book I have read and studied years ago and then find how it is even better than I thought it was years ago. I would have to say this is the case with Prisig's book for me. Would I suggest that all seminarians who take philosophy should read it? Yes, I would probably say that. but I would say it should be read by all who are involved with teaching at any level as well. 

One of the great aspects of the Prisig's book is: it makes one think! In the last years of my teaching I saved some material from the students. Here are a few comments that were mentioned: " From watching my classmates, I realized that this class does something that others do not: It forces us to think." -- Josh Cox 2010. And one more: "One quote that has impacted my life is: 'Education is what is left when you forget everything else that you've learned in school.' I believe that you have truly educated us . I have not forgotten much from this class" -- Will Denton--2010.

The point I am trying to make is that true learning and education needs to make one THINK! I feel humbled in some ways that some of my students would say that about my classes and the material that I chose for them to read and study in class. I also believe that we need to do this same thing all of our lives wherever we are and in whatever work we are involved. Working with seminarians would be one of those areas.

So I am grateful to you, Josh Carroll for sharing with me your love of motorcycles and maintaining them. I am grateful that you awoke some of the past in me about my own students and teaching them. As I did last year so I again encourage you to keep this gift alive in you as it will help you in your priestly life in many more ways than you can imagine.

It was a dream of mine last year to make connections between Conception Seminary and Abbey to Mount Michael Bendictine High School students and monks of Mount Michael as well. The drive back and forth every week was a tough thing and I had to admit that it was too hard for me. Hopefully, I can achieve more of a connection via technology. Prisig would encourage such a thing.

Blessings to all at Conception and to all at Mount Michael!