The Blog @
Southern Virginia University
  1. “Winter Blahs? Winter Ahhs!” An Open Letter from Professor Barbara Crawford

    February 22, 2017

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    There is a very small room, about 7 x 9 feet in size, off the kitchen. The room is positioned to catch the morning and evening sun, and so is bathed in light almost all day. This is where I begin my day. On a winter day, when it is still dark, I take nourishment there, both spiritual and nutritional. Today, I arrive before the sun. I can tell it is cold outside. Probably there’s frost. But it’s too dark to say.

    Books of inspiration and devotion are on the small table. The newest additions to the group are Arctic Circle and Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom. Bird-watching binoculars are on top of the stack. A Tibetan singing bell provides my answer to bird calls. As the sun begins to appear, shining first on my uphill neighbors, who were our friends before we moved here, it brightens my cozy surroundings.

    In the corner, the first to receive the light is a small basil plant pulled from last summer’s garden. In a while, I will, as usual, pick two leaves and add them to my bottled water. They will provide reminders during the day of the morning stillness from which they came and they offer promise of the garden to come.

    Next to the basil is a small flowering plant given to me by a friend. I’m not familiar with the plant and refer to it by the name of my friend. In the middle of the fading darkness is a bright pink germanium, a fall cast-off pulled from a friend’s trash pile. Such throwaways are a winter delight. Also sprouting are small tomato seedlings. These fragile-looking starts will become robust providers for my summer harvest. Other plants include a cutting from boxwood shrubs that will become part of a new garden I am planning.

    Outside, the sun now illuminates the fields, whose soft rose-colored curves contrast with the cool blue shadows cast by the houses. I am painting the image in my mind as I finish my breakfast. The simple white table cloth on the table is a $2 purchase from an Italian flea market and a reminder of our frequent trips to Italy.

    The sun shines strongly now and reminds me that there are things to do. I will go gladdened by so much simple beauty. My day has been enriched by this small moment and by the memories it has triggered. Joyfully I leave my small sanctuary and carry its spirit in my heart.

     

    Barbara Crawford

     

    February  2017

  2. Thoughts On Love From Students, Faculty, and Professional Staff

    February 15, 2017

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    As we celebrate Valentine’s Day today, and watch the Southern Virginia University Theatre Department’s production “Romeo and Juliet” on the stage, love is in the air and on our minds.

    Love is all around us, and we express it in more ways than we realize. We show love for our family and our friends. We show love for our passions and pastimes. We show love for learning.

    Here are some thoughts from around campus on the role of love in different aspects of our lives.

     

    Professor Jeremiah John 

    “I think love has two sides. One side is impartial: it sees whatever is good and honors it. The other side is partial. It’s where you love one particular thing or person, and you want them to love you back. Sometimes I think the first, impartial side is better. It’s not right to love only your own friends. But I don’t think people can be happy without loving particular things, in a special way. Each person has her own parents, her own children, and her own country. In Exodus, God calls himself ‘jealous’, and there’s a hymn in which God says ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have called you, and you are mine.’ In Orwell’s essay on Gandhi, he agrees with Gandhi that a perfect person would love everyone equally, but responds that ‘essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection’ ”.

     

    Professor Amy Roskelley

    “Sometimes it’s easy to love others or to love God, but it’s hard to let them love you back. It’s so easy to love others but we live in a society where we often don’t feel worthy of receiving love and that’s so wrong. Just by virtue of being a literal child of God we are worthy of being loved.”

     

    Professor Wyatt Winnie

    To me, love, in terms of education and love of learning is the ability to cultivate a sense of wonder about the world around us. Exploring the world of ideas is an exciting journey that often brings clarity of mind, as well as peace and enlargement to the soul.”

     

    Sarah Morrow

    “Your goals should reflect what you love. So if you love soccer, your goals should help you improve in that field. If you love a person, your goals should help improve that relationship.”

     

    Josh Ogden

    “Love is the only thing that can make life worth living; it propels me out of bed and makes me appreciate beauty and want to create it. Without it, life would just be a thing and not a journey. Love is the only real thing in a world of frivolity.”

     

    Chris-Anthony Collins

    “Love is like faith. It doesn’t come overnight. It can grow, but it can also diminish if you don’t maintain and nurture it. Love is something you have to work for.”

     

    Cynthia Stoddard

    “Love to me means doing things for other people without expecting anything in return. When i want to show love to my husband, for example,  I’ll do the dishes. For a while I would only do the dishes because they needed to be done, but now I do it because I love my husband.”

     

    Alexis Brimhall

    “To me, love is a verb, not a noun. Love isn’t something you have, it’s something you do. To love is to act, doing things both big and small to show others how you feel.”

     

    Sarah Brezenski

    “Love is chocolate cake.”

     

    Nick Porter

    “I have found that for me love is putting others first. I find the most joy in what I do when it has a positive effect on other people.”

     

    Zach Shiraki

    “Well, I feel like it’s really what life’s about, right? We’re governed by how much we ‘love’ any specific person, thing, or activity. It’s what causes us to be happy or sad or angry. That’s why I feel like the worst thing you can feel is nothing, because that means you have no love for anyone or anything. Love is what gives us meaning.”

     

    Nathanael Rodriguez

    “When it comes to the important things, love means that what you personally want doesn’t really matter any more, and you focus more on them.”

     

     

    Post By Whitney John (’19)

  3. Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

    January 16, 2017

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    Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by striving to remember the man, as well as the cause to which he dedicated his life. As tribute to the Reverend King, we wanted to share just a few of the powerful messages from his book, “Strength to Love,” his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, and his Christmas Sermon on Peace. One thing becomes clear while reading or listening to Dr. King’s words — his message of equality, love, and peace, resonates as strongly today as it did a half century ago.

    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Strength to Love, 1963

    “Jesus is eternally right. History is replete with the bleached bones of nations that refused to listen to him. May we in this century hear and follow his words. May we realize that we shall never be true sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father until we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.” – Strength to Love, 1963

    “…nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time — the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.” – Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1964

    “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” – Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1964 

    “I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. ‘And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together … none shall be afraid.’ I still believe that We Shall overcome!”­ ­– Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1964

    “We have experimented with the meaning of nonviolence in our struggle for racial justice in the United States. But now, the time has come for man to experiment with nonviolence in all areas in human conflict.” – Christmas Sermon on Peace, 1967

    (Post by Chris Pendleton ’08.)

  4. Behind the Scenes: The Ones Who Make the Limelight

    November 28, 2016

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    As Southern Virginia University students file out Chandler after another spectacular theater production, it is possible that most of the audience may have missed a significant part of the show. While there are the actors in the limelight that capture our attention with dedicated performances, at the end of the day there are also those who make the limelight and often go unrecognized as part of the backstage crew.  

    For Southern Virginia’s production of Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias”, stage manager Aubrie Bouchard is one of many backstage who has sacrificed hours on end to make sure the production was as perfect as it could be.

    Bouchard comments on how as stage manager, she is in charge of all technical aspects of the show. “[The stage manager] is at the head,” Bouchard says. “They have all of these different managers; so there are props managers, costume managers, lights designers, sound people, and they are all in charge of their specific areas, but the stage manager oversees all of that and makes sure everything gets done that needs to get done.”

    Bouchard goes on to describe the process of going along in the script and ensuring that all cues are met and seamlessly correspond with the performance of the actors. Every person contributing to the show is an essential part and all deserve recognition for their hard work.

    “Think of a production and everything that goes into it,” Bouchard suggests. “You’ve got your costumes, your light cues, your sound cues, your props, and if all of that stuff just disappeared, then a lot of that realness of theater would disappear as well.”

    A theatre scene such as the hair salon in Steel Magnolias is more complicated to create than one might initially think, and even though the set remains unchanged throughout the entire performance, there is still just as much to consider when setting the stage for a successful show.

    Having spent most of her theater career on the stage as an actor herself, Bouchard reflects on what this change of perspective working backstage has taught her. “I have been humbled,” she says, “because every aspect of theater is critical, and every aspect of theater can teach you what theater has to offer … So i’m really grateful that i’ve been able to see first hand how much work it takes for those shows.”

    Bouchard, undoubtedly along with the others who worked to create the show both on the stage and off, feels that the ultimate payoff for all their hard work is the show’s opening night. “The actors did an amazing job, all the props happened, all the light cues … From my view in the sound booth, I could see people crying and laughing and to see that finally everything had come together, even though it wasn’t perfect, it still was something that brought joy to people, and getting to see that was so unbelievably satisfying.”

    (Post by Whitney John’19)

  5. Loving the Constitution

    September 19, 2016

    The following is a post by Dr. Jeremiah John, associate professor of politics and interim associate provost, to commemorate the United States Constitution on Constitution Day.

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    One of my favorite aphorists — Heraclitus — said, “The people should fight for their law, as they do for their city wall.” I agree, but I would add that fighting for our law is a more complicated matter — and not an easier one — than fighting for our city wall. This is even truer for Americans, and their most basic, oldest “wall” of all: the U.S. Constitution.

    Americans love the Constitution. That’s how it seems, anyway, listening to politicians, opinion columnists and activists of various persuasions. The cry of “Defend the Constitution!”— from the left and from the right — is often heard, while the cry of “Reform the Constitution!”or “A new Constitution!” is more rarely heard. A 2007 Rasmussen Report poll reported that 63 percent of Americans rate the U.S. Constitution “great” or “good,” even while dissatisfaction with “the political system in Washington” has more recently risen to over 80 percent.

    But if the Constitution is loved, it does not seem to be well-known. Whenever some call us to rally around it, others are quick to observe that Americans aren’t very familiar with it. Civic literacy surveys regularly report on the dismal state of knowledge of the Constitution. For example, the Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted a poll in 2013 which showed that only 36 percent of Americans could name all three branches of government, and over half get it confused with the Declaration of Independence. If we admire the Constitution, perhaps we do so from a distance. To capture the style of our dedication, the satirical newspaper The Onion told of an “area man” who is a “passionate defender of what he imagines the Constitution to be.”

    But what does it really mean to love and defend the Constitution? Does it mean that someone agrees with and endorses all its provisions? For example, was the Constitution worthy of love in 1787 when it included protections for slavery? Was it worthy of love after the Civil War Amendments — which guaranteed, among other things, “equal protection of the laws”— but before the 19th, which prohibited discrimination in voting rights based on sex? Are there some essential elements we can support with enthusiasm, discounting, for example, its number of strange rules for picking the president?

    Do we love the Constitution less, the more we are willing to change it? My home state of Virginia has had, by my count, 6 different constitutions. The 1902 Constitution, which lasted longer than any other in Virginia history, was written in order to disenfranchise African-Americans and to entrench racial segregation in the state. That constitution was superseded by the current one, which was itself drafted before I was born, in 1971. But the Virginia Constitution of 1902, I will easily admit, I do not love.

    As for the U.S. Constitution, it has many things I find to be wise: its distinct kind of federalism, its design of Congress as a true legislating body — not merely a parliament — and its provisions for judicial independence. Other parts seem wise to me but have been abolished, or diverted from their original purpose over time, such as the appointment of Senators by state legislatures, or the war power of Congress. And in other places, by omission or error, I think the U.S. Constitution is wrong. While many state constitutions are too easy to change, the federal Constitution is too hard to change. And I’d say the Mexican Constitution, in its single six-year term for presidents, or the German Constitution, in its special protections for marriage and family — to give two examples — get it right where our Constitution gets it wrong.

    But I don’t love those other constitutions in the way I love the United States Constitution. I don’t pledge “true faith and allegiance” to them, because, after all, I am an American citizen. This “true faith” does not spring from a well-considered judgment about what system is best, comparing what we have with all the others that are available. Good thing, too, as almost no citizen knows their own constitution, let alone all the others, well enough to make this kind of judgment. Rather, the Constitution deserves the allegiance of Americans first because it is the only possible focus on our patriotism. Only through it did the United States as a political community come into being. Without it, it may yet cease to exist. The Constitution is, for Americans, our “koinon,” as the ancient Greeks put it: our common thing, the thing all citizens share in. If we also love the land and people of the United States along with its traditions and culture, its institutions and achievements, we must, by extension, love the Constitution of the United States. But love is compatible with correction, even major reform. Allegiance is compatible with criticism if it is measured. Like sailors who are repairing the boat they are currently floating in, we will have to adopt the care of people who appreciate what is keeping their heads above water.

    So in one way, I like the attitude of the man who is a “passionate defender of what he imagines the Constitution to be.” He knows on a deep level that he has something valuable, even if he wouldn’t know what to do with it, and is unaware of its limitations. Perhaps he could be spurred by his passion to learn more. Perhaps he has ideas for his Constitution, and perhaps those ideas could themselves be perfected into a proposal for improvement. But as with the man fighting for his city wall, ignorant enthusiasm in defense of the Constitution is not likely to succeed.  As Lincoln put it in a speech early in his career, defense of the Constitution must be, in the first place a “political religion,” a “state of feeling” taught to the “lisping babe” on the mother’s lap. But it must also make use of “cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason,” the kind that dispels partisan illusions, like the one that tells us that the Constitution guarantees all our favorite policies, or prohibits all the ones we dislike. In short, our allegiance to the Constitution should, I believe, be both warm and wise. It should be affectionate enough to feel that the Constitution is essential to American political identity, but smart enough to see it clearly for what it is, from its flaws to its profound genius and enduring worth.

    (Post by Dr. Jeremiah John, Associate Professor of Politics and Interim Associate Provost)