Sunday, April 19, 2015

An Afternoon's Optimism

Image result for mineralogical museum delaware

Been under the weather for about a week, bronchitis or some other upper respiratory symptoms, enough to get me to the doctor.  In a recovery mode now.  When I planned my six months in December 2014 I put into the tasks a series of three museum visits in different cities.  I had been to the Landis Museum during the winter and decided to check out the University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum this weekend.  No inclination to attend shabbos services at my home congregation, not enough inclination to return me to Chabad, so I worshiped no place but kept the day as protected time, having breakfast, getting a latte, then a soda.  The museums open at noon so around then I headed off to U of D.

Even though I've been to the University many times, driving through most of it at one time or another and walking the length of Main Street where businesses interface with campus, I've never explored the classroom and residence portions.  It turns out that this weekend, the University set aside the day for accepted students and their parents to visit as they decide where to matriculate.  Parking rules suspended.  Everyone seemed so enthusiastic and helpful.  I parked near the Mineralogical Museum in the Geology Building which itself lied amid a science and engineering complex with the Student Union just a few buildings beyond that.  It was a small but pleasant display, samples of the stuff they tried to teach us with marginal success in 9th Grade NY Regents Earth Science.  Not sure who donated the several significant looking gold nuggets.  No diamwww.chabadde.comonds, rubies or sapphires, some relatively crude emeralds but mostly the stuff that constitutes the middle segments of Moh's hardness scale, yet specimens of natural beauty and crystal formation.

This did not take very long.  UD has three museums, one a photography exhibit on pre-civil rights African American experience and achievement, the other at the original College Hall a small painting and drawing exhibit, both small, both manned by very pleasant students who could answer a few questions about the display and seemed genuinely pleased that a visitor took enough interest to ask about it.

To get from the science complex to the building where I assume the deans hang out I had to traverse a good part of the campus, the college green hidden from traffic but with abundantly filled bicycle racks, a few students lolling on the green with a book, aware that finals could not be far off.  There were activities announced on bulletin boards, visiting prospective students on guided tours, scatting young ladies with blue Ask Me t-shirts.   It's a place where you can immerse yourself in the world's future, if only for about two hours.

But I did not take a comparable amount of time to worship that shabbos morning.  I don't know if any of the kids on campus did either.  What I can say, though, is that the future that I wandered through at the University would not be duplicated any shabbos morning at my synagogue or even Chabad.  Eventually these kids will have to fill in schedules and meet deadlines just like they do at my synagogue but doing these things is part of the process of their advancement.  For us, whether at shul or at work, filling the schedule has become the end point, devoid of any future growth.  At UD the museums reflect a small element of memory or knowledge.  Work at the hospital where residents expand their skills while patients recover also reflects a future.  Shul though, even on shabbos morning, is the museum.  People seem to have lost the ability to tell the difference.  Optimism seems much more limited in that environment.  But as long as optimism exists elsewhere, it can be captured elsewhere, as I experienced yesterday.

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