Author Archives: Joe

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces.

The Wayfaring Stranger

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger
In that bright land to which I go
I’m going there to see my Father
And all my loved ones who’ve gone on
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home
I know dark clouds will gather ’round me
I know my way is hard and steep
But beauteous fields arise before me
Where God’s redeemed, their vigils keep
I’m going there to see my Mother
She said she’d meet me when I come
So, I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home

Yesterday, I watched the movie 1917. It was phenomenal but also very sad. I think it’s almost impossible to have a happy World War I movie. If you did, it would be inaccurate. World War I was such an awful war. The set really bring that to life in this movie. In my opinion, the sets were very accurate. As a historian, I’d be remiss to say that there were no inaccuracies. There are a few, but I’m not here to talk about that. One of the most moving moments of the movie is when Jos Slovik sings “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”

The song itself is an old American folk hymn about a plaintive soul on the journey through life. “I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger” speaks of man’s journeying on this earth. Yet, from what and to what does man go?

From the moment Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, man’s journey has him wanting to return. Yet, this return requires passing through the looming, dark portal of death. We journeyed through life into death.

The song’s line “I’m just going over Jordan” evokes this death. In one respect, the line refers to Joshua, that successor of Moses who led the Israelites across the dry bed of the river into the long-desired promised land. Yet, in a deeper sense, the line refers to baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Our crossing is a watery plunge, a sign of dying and rising, a baptism.We journey through death into eternal life.

As we walk toward that dark portal of death, the baptized walk with Christ. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In Baptism, we are changed at the deepest center of our being, we continue to walk in newness and with hope. We are on the way as wayfarers.

The song continues saying, “I’m just going over home.” This is a clear allusion to heaven. As pilgrims, we journey not just to death, but we pass on to more. “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Hebrew 13:14). The deepest and truest sense of our journeying is not about designation of place. Our journeying is about fulfillment, perfection, life, and the all-consuming vision of the beloved, face of God.

Upon rising from the waters of baptism, we follow Christ, who is “the way” (John 14:6). This following requires renewal and sacrifice. St. Paul exhorts us to put off the old man and put on the new man, even calling for our minds to be renewed in Christ (Ephesians 4:22–24). To put off the old man is a command to leave behind the sin and the corruption which came from Adam and Eve. To put on the new man is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). To be renewed in the spirit of the mind is to “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Therefore, we are poor because we need all from Christ. We are wayfarers because we are journeying from death to life in Christ. We are strangers because we have died to this world and seek those things above. “For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). When our journey—that is, our perfection in the Son—is complete, we will see our Father. “No one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).


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Moment of Zen: Getting Outside


Pic of the Day


Isabella’s Happy

Isabella seems very happy that I am home all day. She gets up with me each morning, and we have breakfast. Then she follows me into my home office. She’s enjoying her new supervisory role. She likes to be somewhere she can watch me. Sometimes, she’s sitting on the desk micromanaging. Other times, she watches from afar. The problem comes when she tries to do my work for me. Let’s put it this way, she’s not a good typist. She just randomly hits various keys. So for the first hour or so of work, I have to constantly move her from my laptop. Around 10 am, her workday is over. She either sleeps on the futon in my office, or she curls up in the midst of my bed. The rest of her day consists of sleeping. When it’s time for me to stop at the end of the day, she wakes up and let’s me know I am through working and that all my attention should be on her.


Pic of the Day


Reading

While I have paperwork and some webinars, I’m trying to do a lot of reading and research, mostly on cultural preservation in times of war. I will be teaching a class on the subject next spring, and I am also preparing some other types of trainings on the subject. I’m just trying my best to keep busy while working from home.
A letter went out from our university president yesterday stating that our jobs will be secure through May 1st, but after that they will re-evaluate the economics of the university and May be reassessing our positions. I’m hoping my boss, who’s not a very strong leader, has it in him to fight to keep us on if cuts are made. We have an endowment that I hope can be used to save us, if it comes down to money. It really sucks that the president is considering this because his last day is May 31st. If he does a massive layoff, which he hinted at, it will leave the new president with a big mess on his hands. 
I pray that we can keep on keeping on. How do you justify your job when you’re the museum educator and none of the professors are using you in the new online format? I also handle all the public programming, but if people can’t gather in one place, my job becomes moot. I’m worried the university will see me as nonessential. Therefore I have to find some projects to keep me busy while I’m at home during this time of crisis.

Pic of the Day


At Home: Day 3

Contrary to the pictures I have posted, I actually do get up, shower, and get dressed each day before going and sitting in front of my computer to do work. The governor of Vermont is enacting a stay at home order today at 5 pm which will last at least three weeks. We are only supposed to leave home for essentials. While some of my coworkers have to go into the museum for essential functions, I can do everything from home. I was originally scheduled to work in the museum today, but my boss decided I should continue to work from home. 
As cases grow in Vermont and neighboring New York, I have gone out and done some shopping, at least what I was able to buy. There is no toilet paper, thankfully I have some already, and the grocery stores are almost completely out of pasta and frozen dinners. 
All my medical appointments have been postponed. My physical therapy on my shoulder I injured (I have a torn labrum) won’t begin again until it is safe again to go out and return to normal. At least I have my exercises to build up the muscles around the labrum to help it heal. My six month dental cleaning has also been cancelled. They haven’t rescheduled my doctors’ appointments set for the coming weeks, but I think it’s just a matter of time.
Currently, I have enough food and supplies to last a little while, so I’m good for now. I’ll continue to work from home. God only knows what all I’ll be working on, but I’ll figure out something. How is everyone else doing during this COVID-19 outbreak? I’d love to hear from y’all.

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Charlie Smith; Single Man, ensorcelled, unreliable narrator, ravenous reader, love child of Jane & Paul Bowles, borne by surrogate, Little Edie Beale, devoted catechumen of Her Grace, Duchess Goldblatt; now living a life of Love & Light, shining from the social-media-free exile of my own personal mirage of Tangier, the Grey Gardens in the Elba of my imagination, here, where I am, going.