because it now needs what before it only wanted.

July 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

Professor Max Stein’s exclamations were not out of character. For forty-eight years from his second-floor office of Old Main he had held court—no matter that for the last two decades, as the campus expanded and Old Main receded from centerpiece to neglected afterthought to begrudged capital liability, it was to a diminished jury. In the eyes of his colleagues over the years, because his rages, whether they were aimed at the Koreans or the Viet Cong, Woodstock or Wall Street, were merely rhetorical, they were ultimately as feeble as Stein was thin. (—Money where his mouth is? Are you kidding, Stein’d cause an inflation crisis if that were to happen!) Stein was not unaware of the sentiment and dissented in the only way he knew how. —We must never forget, he declared at the start of his Homiletics courses, and possibly to himself at the close of each day, —words matter, and they must be made right. He had expounded his theories of preaching in the small classrooms of Old Main, only occasionally venturing into the lecture halls of the Bieder Building and never at all those of Mingus. By the mid-1970s, as Mingus Hall grew in stature, sightings of Stein outside Old Main became rare. By the ’80s, his classes the only ones not yet relocated to the newer facilities, he was something of a legend. By the ’90s, now a retired professor emeritus, more sticking around than asked to stay, he was largely forgotten. Before being assigned his graduate assistant, R. had not given Stein much thought. A few peripheral sightings, entering and exiting Old Main; chance glimpses during chapel services and commencement, stealing in and out of the balcony; old photographs seen but seldom noticed, mostly historical memorabilia in the library of a campus bygone; and the occasional anecdote, whose details even when true were too sketchy to have much value as truth. That Stein was still supplied an assistant so long after his retirement began as an administrative oversight whose blame no one would claim, became a problem no one cared to fix, until it finally and formally was called “a token of appreciation.”

—The steeple—have you seen the plans?—it is engorged with hubris. Papal priapic envy. Where you and I are content to dangle as intended—unused, mostly unseen sacks, we—they want—not simply to be seen—but to be needed—for the pagan earth to groan like a whore—because it now needs what before it only wanted. This is consummation, my boy. Not redemption. This chapel they want to build, this blueprinted prick they’re now raising money for, it will be the end of us.

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