“The four walls of my new freedom”

One thing Yale does not lack in is course offerings. There are scores of classes to pick from at the Divinity School and then scores more to pick from at the various schools and departments elsewhere in the university.

It can be easily overwhelming. There can be too much choice. Except for some broad distribution requirements, there are very few paths that a M.Div student must trod before graduation. He or she can feel like a kid in a candy store, limited only by the four or five courses we can take each term. I know this because I’ve heard it expressed by several of my fellow students.

For me, the story is a little different. Because I am doing both an M.Div and a Diploma in Anglican Studies and am also – simultaneously and confusingly – a student at Berkeley Divinity School, I have a fair bit more guidance. In fact, on the first day of orientation, we were given an advising customary that strongly recommended the four courses to take in our first term so that we can meet prerequisites for later courses and distribution requirements. My schedule isn’t quite set yet but it looks like I’ll be taking at least three of those four courses.

Usually, I resist such efforts to “meddle” in my choices. (Yes, I know it’s just the accumulated wisdom and advice of years of previous students, not meddling.) But this time I found it so liberating. While everyone else was obsessing about what courses to take, I was not. It was one possible stress-inducing factor that was happily lifted from my shoulders.

Thomas Merton in The Seven Storey Mountain writes about how when he arrived at his monastery for the first time, he found “the four walls of my new freedom.” I never understood what that meant – freedom? in a Trappist monastery? Now, thanks to this experience of choosing classes, I do.

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