I got a very pleasant letter this week, the formal answer to my application for one of many post-graduate degree progams to be sponsored by the Canadian Forces in the 2013-14 school year. At least, it had a happy ending, though the first paragraph (thank for you application, competition for this program was rigorous, and your qualifications were carefully considered) left me with a sinking feeling. I've gotten too many "You're good but not good enough" letters in my day. But I bashed on to the second paragraph which began with the golden words "I am pleased to inform you ..". Huzzah!
So, barring budget cuts and unforseen austerities, the next step in my military career will be going back to school. If all goes to plan this summer, Mrs. Padre and I will sell our house in Medicine Hat and head back east, back to the province of Ontario, and to the city of Kitchener-Waterloo, where I will be doing a two year MA program in Religion and Culture at Wilfred Laurier University. K-W as the locals call it is home to Canada's biggest and coolest Oktoberfest, so I expect we will fit right in.
It's too early to say when we will move, or what exactly my studies will focus on. I would like to learn as much about Islam and about the possibilities and limits of religious dialogue between Islam and the West, varying cultural views of the sacred and the secular, etc, but that will require more thought and discussions with their faculty. Whatever the focus is, it will be an interesting few years. The idea of being paid by the Army to be a graduate student has its attractions. I've been a starving grad student, and it sucked. Once the degree is done I'll put the uniform back on and go where the army sends me - I'm told this post-grad leads to a slot in a think tank in the doctrine and training establishment in Kingston, ON, but we shall see.
For now I am looking forward to revisiting one of the great pleasures I knew as a graduate student, namely having hours to roam the stacks of a good university library. I was talking about the American poet William Stafford in a recent post here, and I am reminded of his poem "Afternoon in the Stacks"
An Afternoon in the Stacks By William Stafford Closing the book, I find I have left my head inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound, words adjusting themselves to their meaning. Long passages open at successive pages. An echo, continuous from the title onward, hums behind me. From in here the world looms, a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences carved out when an author traveled and a reader kept the way open. When this book ends I will pull it inside-out like a sock and throw it back in the library. But the rumor of it will haunt all that follows in my life. A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.