Fall Issue 1
An Invitation from the Editors
By Jolene Nolte & Angelos Kyriakides
There’s one reason I want to edit the Et Cetera this year: You. You, Regent community—friends, mentors, co-workers, fellow students and pilgrims, brothers and sisters. We’re not a perfect community, but it’s been a transformative one for me. We’ve shared soup, laughter, tears. So many of you have encouraged and stretched me, helped me think in new ways, and nourished me with your hospitality.
The Et Ceterais for you. This is a place to share your thoughts. In poetry, what resembles a paragraph is called a “stanza,” Italian for “room.” I love the implied metaphor of the written word as a physical space. May the Et Cetera be a hospitable space, somewhere warm where you can take off your shoes, sit down across the table from friends and be part of the conversation.
To make it a conversation, though, we’re going to need you. As you think about what you might want to say, here are some questions that I hope will prompt you.
What are you learning? We come to Regent with such diverse backgrounds, and we pursue our studies at Regent with an array of interests and questions. Enrich us by sharing.
What are you wrestling with? Studying theology is hard work, not just because of the academic rigour, but because it involves the whole person. You can write in first person here. Tell us about it.
What inspires you? It could be a book, a new album, a sentence that leaps off the page for you and ricochets in your mind for days. Let us know. Maybe we’ll be inspired, too.
What makes you laugh? It’s good not to take ourselves too seriously, and I for one know I do. Laughter is good medicine.
What are you making? Poets, flash fiction writers, illustrators, and cooks, there’s a corner of the Et Ceterajust the right size for you.
Do you need advice? A wise, anonymous member of our community is on standby to answer your questions. We’ll keep your identity anonymous—just provide your pseudonym of choice with your question(s).
The Et Ceterais your space, Regent community. Come on in, make yourself at home.
And all the Copy Editors said Amen. That is, the one Copy Editor who has the honour of peering over Jolene’s shoulder this year. I’d like to reiterate what was already said and invite all Regent students to share your lives in and through Et Ceteraso that we as a community can benefit from the wealth of wisdom and experience housed under our majestic green roof. Judging from the first week, already I can tell it will be an absolute pleasure reading through these word-filled works of art.
A New Start
How My Kokedamas Taught Me To Stop Running Away From Myself
By Isabel Ong
Last October, I signed myself up for a kokedama (Japanese for “moss ball”) workshop, despite having a very poor track record when it came to caring for plants. I had been in Vancouver for two months, and I was raring to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. No one here knew that the succulents in my possession back in Singapore had shriveled up and died (and I lived in the tropics!), or that I felt icky about touching dirt with my bare hands.
At the workshop, I nervously scooped up chunks of cool black dirt and patted them onto a bed of wet moss. I tried squeezing the moss-covered dirt into a dense, compact sphere, but ended up with something more teardrop-shaped. I also went overboard when it came to binding the moss ball with twine, which resulted in my first kokedama looking like, well, a clumpy ball of string. (FYI: My second attempt was marginally better.)
Making the kokedamas reminded me of my approach to my new life in Vancouver. Starting on a fresh, clean slate, in a city where I was virtually unknown and had no emotional baggage to contend, with was such an attractive concept. So what if I never actually had green fingers? I could certainly improve on that front. Being here, to put it bluntly, presented a wonderful opportunity to “re-invent” myself.
But I’ve come to realize that I was looking at it all wrong. I was focused outwardly on the things I wanted to accomplish and the friendships I longed to develop, when God was leading me to look inwardly at the secret, vulnerable places in my heart that I had neglected for far too long. In Vancouver, and at Regent, there was finally space to pause and reflect, and recognize that there were parts of me that desperately needed healing and restoration.
My kokedamas help me to remember that I am dust, to borrow from Walter Brueggemann. While imperfect and covered in the dirt stains of my anxieties, fears, failures and mistakes, I am still precious, worthy, and loved.
It is my prayer for new (and returning) students that you might be able to dig deep amidst your readings, DQs and gobbets. That you might lean into the process instead of solely focusing on the end goal—confronting and wrestling with the parts of you that you’ve tried to hide or run away from, allowing His gentle prodding to lead you into a greater examination of areas that you’ve closed Him out of. And in the process, inviting Him to do a new work and breathe new life into those places.
I went into the kokedama workshop hoping to produce something beautiful that I could display in my new home as “a work of art.” All these months later, I now know that it isn’t what I create, but what my Creator is doing within me, that is so much more glorious and joyful and lovely to behold.
A Note About Notes
By Steven Gomez
Among the first conversations I had in the Regent atrium was about writing in books. To my surprise, I found that I was one of only two people at the table who actually did this. Everyone else was against the practice. “It won’t let you read anything fresh,” they said. “You need to see things with a new insight.”
I used to be like them, a person who preferred my books completely without signs of use. Unscuffed edges. Unbanged corners. Straight, justified text running from one side to the other leaving a healthy enough margin for white space.
I can't tell you when I transformed into the monster I am now, who longs to rampage over the countryside of words leaving in my wake the violent aftermath of underlines, thoughts, quotes from other writers, Bible passages, and philosophical observations. I long to do these things, though what I'm reading doesn't always lend itself well to being commented upon. It's either dull rubbish or already so perfectly concise that it's difficult to add anything to the mix without simply making noise.
But for some reason, marginalia began to look beautiful. Or rather, it had always looked beautiful and I simply didn't think myself intelligent enough to make some of my own. Marginalia has long been a staple of great thinkers, appearing as far back in the past as the edges of scrolls in ancient libraries. Right on the margins of human history. That looks like a thing for smart people,I lied to myself, and it's too bad I have such a hang-up about keeping books clean or else I'd look smart too. I tried occasionally; hesitant, meaningless jottings.
Appropriately, I first let myself go to town on a book about Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of English literature’s most prolific and celebrated margin-markers; his marginalia have even been published in multiple volumes of their own.
The book I read and annotated was Malcolm Guite's Mariner, part biography and part close reading of “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner,” which brilliantly illuminates the Christian underpinnings of that haunting and redemptive tale. Intending to review the book for my blog, I decided I would start jotting down my reactions to help me find important passages and ideas to mention in the review. Instead I became absorbed in those very ideas and began making connections between them and other ideas about poetry, imagination, and theology.
Were you to flip through the book today, it probably wouldn't seem as densely annotated, except in parts and especially towards the end. ButMarinerhas suffered the horrors of my delinquent pen more than most of the volumes on my shelves; and I've turned out to be very glad it has. As I prepare to study creative Christian writers and poets during my time at Regent, I leafed through the book to see if anything would be useful to dialogue with. But I found more interlocutors than I bargained for. I found myself.
On page 284, Guite quotes an entry from Coleridge’s notebook where he calls God “the Creator! and the Evolver!” Intrigued, I asked in the margin what the word evolver would have signified in those pre-Darwinian days. I evidently found an answer because on page 289, in the blank space that ended the chapter, I wrote a lengthy paragraph explaining how the word comes from Latin and means “to unroll, to expand” as in a scroll. I mused on how God uses revelation as a means of transforming and growing His creation the way an open book expands knowledge and wisdom.
I'd been looking for some new and fresh insight. What I found was even better: something old that still had power, that was still trying to teach me and evolve my own understanding. It’s coalescing with other thoughts and ideas I’ve read recently, even as I write this now, into an Idea far larger than I had imagined when I scribbled in the margins of my book.
I wanted to be taught by Malcolm Guite and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. But through my marginalia I became one of my own teachers, standing in their midst, throwing myself a line to reel me into a larger and more interesting world.
So as you begin a new term and a new year of studies, I encourage you: Write in your books—yours, not the library’s! It isn't about looking smart or even being timeless. Our marginalia are evidence of active, critical thinking with what we read and receive. They are better than the fresh insight; they are experienced guides who will take us deeper down roads we had forgotten. And while the book’s ink seems more permanent and professional, ours is no less valid—rough and rampaging and messy as it might look. It can teach us more than we might be willing to admit.
A Search for Home
By Jinnie Yun
It was two weeks into my freshman year. The first draft for my first college essay was due in ten minutes. I was furiously typing on my keyboard. It was ergonomic. My roommate walked in and said her class had been cut short because there was a fire. She told me to look out the window. I couldn’t see anything but brick. “You effing idiot, the other window!” she screamed. And there, hanging sixteen floors high above Washington Square Park, I saw the fire and gaping hole in one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan. The sky looked as though it had been painted blue. It was that clear. I had just moved cross-country. “Do things like this happen all the time in NYC?” I asked my roommate. “No you effing idiot, NO!” She cursed a lot.
Stunned and unable to unpack the situation, I went back to writing. My sentences made no sense; life as well. She left and I was alone. I pushed the keyboard aside and hung outside the window—the one with the view of what was left of the building. I started taking photos when I heard a gasp. I too, echoed in horror as I watched the first tower collapse, and then the second.
It was two weeks into my freshman year, one day shy of me legally becoming an adult.
My flat-mates and I wanted to help. The next day, we tried donating blood at three different locations, but they rejected us. There weren’t enough survivors, they said. Happy eighteenth birthday to me, I thought. Every night at dusk, we crossed the street into the park. We lit candles, listened to people play somber songs, but mostly just stood there silently reflecting, perhaps even some, praying. The images and smells are seared into my memory. Tears streaming down the traumatized faces of friends of a friend; for I had no friends of my own in New York City yet. I had no tears either. It took a week for the shock to subside. Images of heroic firefighters and emergency responders going into the chaos to save the few, reminded me again how another man had come into humanity’s mess to bring about salvation and redemption. He too, I imagined, wept.
The more I try to forget, the more I remember.
“Jinnie, come back home,” the text message from my Mom read. My family lived in California and they too in their own way, lived through the horrors of 9/11 and uncertainties of post-9/11 with me, but this was a first. Concern weighed heavy as they read for the fourth time in five months a version of this message from me: “Yes, bombing/attack/explosion/terrorist plot happened. I’m OK. Team is OK. Please pray.” For the first time, I was asked to consider, commanded, pleaded with, to come back home.
But where was home?
I don’t know whether it was the mesmerizing blues of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, the rich history of the land, or simply the people, but I fell in love with a country in the Middle East. I found myself, after years of waiting to be sent, living out my dreams, leading a mission team in a capital city. We learned the language, tried to become cultural insiders, danced a lot, prayed a lot, and drank cup after cup of black tea while reasoning with people. We did this day in and day out.
If the truest truth of the universe is that we flourish as human beings when we are known, belonging to a place that cares for us, in relationship to people and a place where we have a sense of responsibility to one’s self and to each other, that place for me was that country in the Middle East. Even in the midst of bombings, terror attacks, and loud sounds that still make me do a body check (Do I still have my hair? Check. Ears? Check. Fingers? Check. Legs? Check.) Today, every part of me wanted to reply to that text, but Mom, I am already home.
It’s two weeks into a new school year. I find myself typing again on a keyboard (sans cursing roommate) as I watch palm trees gently sway outside my window. The sky’s a dusty blue. In the far distance, the dry outline of the San Jacinto Mountains makes me wonder if California’s still in a drought. Life, generally speaking, makes sense. I watched the Twin Towers fall half my lifetime ago. It defined my adulthood: emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and vocationally. I recollect conversations with classmates at Regent, unable to remember—not because they were in a different part of the world where this news was less real—but because they were too young to understand. It makes me feel weathered. But tonight, as I have the past seventeen years, I’ll light a candle, play some songs, reflect, and pray. I’ll let myself remember the firefighters, first responders, and the faces of dear friends in the Middle East. I’ll let myself sit in the heaviness as I acknowledge the mess, but also the cost of redemption. I too, will weep.
By Sandi Smoker
Warmth is not merely a commodity.
Warmth is a family matter;
Woven amidst place-ness—
where brick and wood,
fire and food,
deepen human roots in the soil of the gathered.
the rhythm takes time
warmth is reduced to a dial on the wall.
An abstract consumable—
a means in itself.
No longer explicitly woven
into fabriced lives, familied lives.