The stacks at the Burke felt like a respite from the hectic outside world- every class period, every meeting I was in, every personal interaction started with a sly smile- each “how are you?” was performative in the way that everyone knows: that such a simple question cannot be answered in the midst of this pandemic.
When I was hired at the Burke, I worried about the loneliness I might feel in the stacks, not surrounded by peers who had made the Burke a special place previously. But quickly I was proved wrong. I adjusted to being in the Burke alone and found joy in being surrounded by the texts that have made being in seminary an exciting journey.
In late December I started shelf-reading, making sure all books were in the correct location, as a part of my role as a student worker. I was finishing up my courses, one of which was on the topic of Self-Inquiry. It just so happened that the section we were reading was where the philosophical theology books were shelved, where I found texts by Husserl, and Merlau-Ponty, and Franz Fanon, all of whom I had read in my course. It was exciting to find these texts, feeling like my classroom work was connected to the Burke in an intimate way.
As I shelf-read, I often look out the window into the quad, inspecting the ongoing construction. It is weird to watch the Union community change so distinctly amidst a time where there are few students on campus. While I watch its evolution, I am often the only one in the stacks witnessing its change from this point of view. The changes happening at Union are not visible to much of the community — how will this kind of change impact those who return to a place they don’t recognize?
When connection feels so fraught, and intimacy is so hard to engage with, I found solace in the books I was shelf-reading. They represent a community bigger than me.