In preparing for a lecture I am to give later this week at the University of Calgary on “Putting God in His Place: Does Theology Belong at the University?” I have reviewed a lot of writings I have found provocative on the nature of theology, the university, and the humanities. Here is a passage that slowed me down to re-read and re-think, from an internationally renowned Christian diplomat whose own academic training was in philosophy (he studied with, among others, Whitehead and Heidegger):
Stillness…belongs to the essence of the humanities…. The deadline must be met, the manuscript must be completed, the dissertation must be revised, the meeting must be attended, the appointment must be kept, the news must be followed, the developments must be watched, the latest literature must be mastered, their anxieties about their position and their future must be allayed–and therefore they can give you only five minutes! And even in these five minutes their mind is not on you. There is no stillness, no quiet, no rest, no living in the presence of eternity, no overcoming of time and its pressures, no unfreezing patience, no resting in being just yourself….
But the humanities mean peace, grace, patience, communion with others, the joys of fellowship and sharing, the art of relaxed, creative conversation, abiding friendship, love—love of the subject matter and love of your friends—the suspension of time, forgetting even yourself, that incredible inner freedom which creates on the spot.
Charles Habib Malik, A Christian Critique of the University (IVP, 1982), 80-81.