Vive la compagnie

I’m cleaning out the closet at work. I doubt that either J. C. L. Gibson or Nicolas Wyatt envisioned my future thus. Edinburgh University was exotic and optimistic, designed to make my curriculum vitae stand out. More like standing out in the rain. “We have to ask what’s best for the company,” I’m told. I’m not a proud person, but earning a Ph.D. to take out the trash seems like a strange allocation of resources to me. “Take one for the team,” we’re told, since we’re part of a company and when the company prospers, we prosper. On a pro-rated scale, of course. It’s not that taking out the trash is beneath me. I willingly do it at home; my first career aspiration was to be a janitor. Only now I’m dressed in work clothes for the City. And I spent nine years in higher education to get here.

Lately I’ve been pondering how this “for the company” trope is a one-way street. Knowing in advance that Nashotah House could be a Hindenburg career for a liberal, I gave it the old college try. Writing about 90 pages of class notes a week for my first year of teaching, attending mandatory chapel twice a day, I tried not to step on any toes. Even though the theology over which I was forced to chew smelled a bit like this garbage I am now carrying, I made no fuss. Don’t rock the boat, especially if it’s a garbage scow. Take one for the team. After fourteen years of not making a fuss, I was summarily dismissed. I found out, literally, how hard it is to get a job as a garbage man.

Portrait of a livelihood about to end.

Portrait of a livelihood about to end.

Eventually I landed a job at Gorgias Press. Neither prestigious nor lucrative, it was a job and I had already proven I could take one for the team. Positions evaporate around here like dribbles from a spilled cup of coffee. So I found myself at Routledge, jetting around the country, spending long hours on the bus, being told to think what was best for the company. Only don’t expect the company to do the same for you. Stoking egos, I tried to get people with qualifications I could match to write a book for me. At Nashotah House I played on the football team (don’t laugh, it’s true). We had only one game a year, against our rival—the now defunct Seabury-Western in Chicago. During practice one day, one of my students blocked me with a forearm to the chin that left me on my back, seeing stars. I can take one for the team. But sometimes the company needs someone to take out the garbage. Ask the guy with a doctorate in rubbish removal. He always thinks about the company.

2 thoughts on “Vive la compagnie

  1. I feel your pain. I spent 9 years working on a Religion degree and then a Pastoral Ministry degree. I was made promises by a church, who really had no use for a gay religion major or a gay pastoral minister, that was a kick in the teeth. I pushed on for an M.A. in Theology, and quickly realized that the fellows I spent 9 years in formation with crossed an ego bridge that was unknown by me. It was the strangest feeling, sitting in a lecture room with people I knew, who refused to speak my name in my presence. I flunked out eventually. And i wonder now, if all that money I spent on a university education was worth it.

    I got sober at the same time, so it wasn’t wasted on me, what I learned about God and other people. Was it all worth it? And what becomes of you now? Universities are supposed to be career inducing ventures sadly here in Montreal, that is a loosing prospect.

    Nothing, Absolutely Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake… reads the Big Book.

    Keep writing.
    Jeremy in Montreal.

    Like

    • Hi Jeremy,

      Thanks for sharing. I know that I’m not alone in this, and I appreciate hearing your story. I’ve got an idea brewing that there is a solution to this malaise into which theological education has fallen. I’m trying to articulate it formally, but I have to believe there is something to offer those who spend their resources to try to better the world.

      Thanks again for your kind words, and thanks for reading.

      Like

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