Author’s Note: This text was originally written as part of a religious autobiography series at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in 2011. It has since been updated, and will no doubt be updated again. It tells the story of how I grew up as a conservative Christian and served as a teenage missionary before beginning to question and finding myself on the outside of the community I grew up in. It also tells the story of how I found my way into a deeper, more personally meaningful faith and into new communities. Due to the length of the text, it is divided into the following sections to facilitate browsing:
- Fundamentalist Foundations
- The Fortunate Slippery Slope
- Losing One Community and Finding Others
- Finding Myself, and my Role in the Community
- Where I am at the Moment (Which is Subject to Change)
Spiritual Autobiography, 2014
My name is Leslie Maxwell Kaiura. I am thirty-six years old. I was born into the very large Maxwell family of small-town Cairo, Georgia. My dad was one of 16 children, so I grew up as one of the youngest of about 50 first cousins. I have two brothers who are ten and seven years older than me, so effectively I grew up being spoiled by four adults instead of two. I’m not quite sure how I avoided becoming a total brat.
My dad is a wonderful man with a short temper but a big heart, who tends to get his religion from the bluegrass gospel program on local Cairo radio rather than from church. My mother, on the other hand, is the sweetest and most devoted little Christian lady I know, and she embodies the love of Jesus in about the most real and consistent way that I have ever seen. She is the daughter of a straight-and-narrow Baptist preacher who passed away before I was born. I sometimes wonder what he would think of me, with my tattoos, my feminist theories, and my rather lax attitude about the evils of playing cards or having a beer on a Friday afternoon after work. But that’s getting ahead of myself. My mom took me and my brothers to a nearby Baptist church every Sunday, and that’s where I received my first religious education.
1. Fundamentalist Foundations
My first church was the kind of traditional Baptist congregation that many southerners will probably be familiar with: the kind where the people are good, but the doctrine is strict and the choir sings through all eight verses of “Just as I Am” four or five times after a fiery sermon until someone gives in and walks the aisle. Although I can’t imagine myself attending a church like that now, as a child I loved learning Bible stories in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School there. I walked the aisle sometime around five or six years of age, and I remember more about the elated reaction of the adults than I do about my own decision. I understood something about asking Jesus into my heart so that I could go to heaven, but I don’t remember the details. I was so small that during my baptism the preacher had to give me a boost on his knee so that I could be seen over the wall of the baptistery. I have often wondered since then what that conversion experience and baptism really meant in my spiritual life.
Looking back, I feel like the version of Christianity that I got as a child was two-sided like a quarter: the “head” was the “Victory in Jesus” side where there was plenty of joy and happiness about being saved, but the “tail” involved a good deal of fear and worry about scary things like “back-sliding” and the tribulation of the end times. I don’t think an eight or ten year old should feel the need to “rededicate” her life to Christ, but I’m pretty sure I felt that way on multiple occasions, wondering if I was really a good Christian like I ought to be. Despite all of the emphasis on salvation through faith in Jesus, rather than through good works, it was very important to get everything just right to be a good Christian – kind of an all-or-nothing venture. But we’ll come back to that later.
Not long before I started high school, my mom decided to return to Pine Level Baptist Church, a rural church community north of Cairo where my grandfather had been called to preach back in the 60s. Besides the fact that a lot of my dad’s family had attended Pine Level over the years, there was a large and dynamic youth group that my childhood church didn’t have. And, for me, it had the added benefit of allowing me to get to know my mother’s parents a little through the memories of the older generation. For months after we began attending Pine Level, the older folks would stop and talk to me about how much they loved and admired my grandparents.
I had always believed everything I learned in church, and I knew that I was a Christian, but it was at the youth conferences and retreats that I attended with the Pine Level youth group that I had my first real spiritual awakening. By the time I was in high school I had a closet full of t-shirts with Christian slogans, a collection of contemporary Christian cassette tapes, and a stack of inspirational cards that I handed out to any of my school friends that I thought needed a little Jesus. I probably annoyed some people with all that holy rolling. For several years I attended the week-long youth camp called Centrifuge, and it was there one summer that I learned about the North American Mission Board’s Sojourner program. The Sojourner program sent high school juniors and seniors to do summer missions work around the United States. I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of the program, and I impatiently waited for a year or two to pass so that I would be old enough to apply.
As a result, the summer after my junior year I spent eight weeks as a missionary in Charleston, South Carolina with Charleston Area Resort Ministries. When I arrived in Charleston, at first I was a little disappointed to be assigned to the “migrant team,” since it meant that I wouldn’t be participating in the exciting evening resort mission activities, but little did I know that being assigned to that team would be the beginning of a journey that has helped put me where I am now.
As a member of the migrant team, I spent weekday evenings working in the migrant camps at the tomato and watermelon farms on Charleston’s barrier islands. The families of seasonal workers from Mexico and Central America lived in simple compounds of buildings provided by the farmers, and each evening we gathered all of the children in the compound and did simple Bible-school programs with them. Many of the children spoke English, but their parents didn’t, so when we wanted to reach out to the adults, our conversations were usually mediated by a five-year-old interpreter. I began to regret deciding to take French instead of Spanish in high school just because the French teacher was easier. Despite the language barriers, however, I absolutely fell in love with the children and families in the migrant camps. I knew that I wanted to keep working with the immigrant population, which at that time was just beginning to be a permanent fixture in the southeast. When the end of the summer came and I sadly went back home to Cairo, I was happy to find that there was a new mission program in our county where I could put my enthusiasm to work: conversational English classes hosted at a local church. I spent two years keeping the nursery there, and then eventually progressed to teaching basic classes myself.
The summer after my senior year, I reapplied for the Sojourner program and was sent to inner-city Houston, and when I was in college I returned there for a second summer. The summer missionaries in Houston served the mostly Hispanic inner-city population in various ministries ranging from children’s programs to English classes, clothing closets, and food distribution. By my second summer in Houston, I had taken a few semesters of Spanish in college; enough at least to have simple conversations with the preschoolers that I worked with in the afternoon kid’s club.
Being a summer missionary in the Baptist Mission Centers in Houston was an amazing experience, and it was hard, hard work. The people in the community appreciated all of the opportunities that our work helped provide, and that made it easy for us to talk to them about why we were doing it. The largest impact to my spiritual life from those three summers of mission work continues to be my firm conviction that to share our faith with others in a meaningful way, we have to meet them where they are and minister to their needs. Thus my hearty dislike of so-called “missionaries” who do things like stand on park benches and yell at college students that they are going to hell. The impact that those summers had on my life in general is perhaps even greater, because I doubt I would be Dr. Kaiura, Spanish professor if I had never been unexpectedly assigned to work with the children of Spanish-speaking migrant workers. The love for Hispanic peoples and their culture that blossomed in me during those years has seen me all the way through to my Ph.D. in Spanish and beyond.
2. The Fortunate Slippery Slope
As my college career got well underway, however, the wave of enthusiastic spirituality that had sustained me through high school and my first year or so of college faltered a bit. Two significant things happened: first, as my intellectual curiosity grew, I started thinking in a more rational, less blindly accepting way about the literalist view of the Bible that I had grown up with. As I my studies touched on themes like existential philosophy, world religions, and mythologies I was exposed to different worldviews that in some ways made a lot of sense to me. Some overlapped with Christianity, and some not so much. I began to understand for the first time how someone who didn’t believe in Jesus could possibly find value and hope in their existence. Like in Albert Camus’s existentialist version of the myth of Sisyphus, in which he imagines Sisyphus as happy in his eternal labor of rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again. “The struggle toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart,” Camus wrote.
Growing up, the Christianity that I was taught focused on the end result—pearly gates and golden streets—more than on the value of the journey that we are on right now in our lives. Life and how we lived it was a means to an end, not an end in itself. I had always thought that the meaning of life was out there somewhere, beyond our mortal lives, and that as a result, there was no meaning unless one believed in Jesus and had eternal life in heaven. So, it was somewhat unsettling for me to realize that non-Christians, even atheists, might not all be the poor, empty, miserable souls I had always assumed them to be. It made me think for the first time about why I was a Christian. Was it simply because my mom took me to a Baptist church? Did I only believe what I believed simply because someone told me that it was right? I had spent most of my life being warned away from ideas different from my own, but I suddenly decided that as a blossoming intellectual I couldn’t use religion as a reason not to think. And so I thought. And read. And thought some more. Eventually, I began to think my way out of fundamentalism. I decided that God was much bigger and more unknowable than I had previously been taught; and I was particularly struck by the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching when I read them in my world literature class: “The tao that can be told / is not the eternal Tao / The name that can be named / is not the eternal Name.” For some reason this struck me as ineffably true. God cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind, and the minute we think we have God figured out, what we have before us is not actually God at all. The thought was comforting and scary at the same time. It allowed me to let go of ideas about God and Christianity that didn’t instinctively make sense to me, but it also left a great deal of uncertainty about things I had previously accepted as truth.
One of the most profound and lasting influences on my faith from that time came from an odd place—my geology professor, who was not even a Christian. I loved my first geology course, which was all about identifying rocks and their properties, but I was challenged when it came time for the second semester—historical geology—which covered the formation of the earth and (gasp) the theory of evolution. I have to give my professor, Rich McWilliams, credit for being sensitive to the religious beliefs of his students, but for also insistently prodding them into thought. He asked us one of the most important questions I have ever been asked about my faith: “If someone absolutely and irrefutably proved the theory of evolution, would that destroy your faith in God and the Bible?” The question made me think long and hard about the foundation of my faith. That foundation wasn’t in the first few chapters of Genesis, but rather in the gospels, in God as reflected in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The rest seemed peripheral. Did it really matter if I believed in seven twenty-four hour days of creation? I had to admit that after digging sharks’ teeth out of a creek bed two hundred miles from any ocean, and seeing how once-flat strata of rocks in the mountains had been buckled and cracked by the titanic forces of continents colliding—evidence of millions of years of changes that our planet has experienced—I was becoming a bit skeptical. Either the earth was very old, or God went to a lot of extra trouble to make it look that way, perhaps so that people like my dear geology professor would have a job.
I finally came to the conclusion that I believed God created the world, but that the “how” was largely irrelevant to my faith. In an essay that I wrote about this experience back in 1998, I quoted Galatians 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Reading the entire Bible in a literal, fundamentalist way had become a yoke of slavery for me. Exploring the creationism/evolution debate and finding a compromise that satisfied my both intellectual curiosity (which loved those dusty old fossils) and my deep faith in God (which I was determined to not give up) was an important first step in making religion work for me as an adult. Without learning to make such compromises, I’m not sure I would still be a Christian, so I see that historical geology class as a key turning point in my spiritual life. It, along with other influences, opened my mind to new possibilities for understanding God. And I have to admit that occasionally, when the subject of creationism comes up, I’m prone to do some prodding of my own and ask that same question that Rich McWilliams asked me so long ago.
3. Losing One Community and Finding Others
Around this same time in my life, my evolving faith faced another, completely different kind of challenge. Earlier, I mentioned that as I was growing up, there was a sort of great divide in the Christian life: on one hand, as long as you “asked Jesus into your heart,” once, you were magically saved forever, but on the other hand, you were constantly in danger of “backsliding” and stumbling off of the straight-and-narrow road of behavioral requirements. During my second year of college, I began dating a guy I met through the conversational English classes—a preacher’s son—no less, but the relationship, which lasted a little over a year, didn’t turn out so well. I only realized in retrospect how emotionally manipulative and unhealthy the relationship was, and when it was all over, I was left feeling that my sense of self was damaged beyond repair. I had royally screwed up. Me, the 4.0 star student—had been remarkably stupid. For the first time, I felt far away from God and profoundly guilty. In retrospect, I can see that I all I was really guilty of was being young and naïve, but back then, it seemed like my Sunday School world had fallen down around my ears.
While I was dealing with all of this, I transferred from the small private college I had been attending to Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. No one from my hometown attended there, so it seemed like a place to start over fresh. I made nice friends at the Baptist Student Union, but when I tried to talk to some of them about the angst that I was still experiencing, I was not met with the understanding and compassion that I expected from Christian peers. Instead, I got “No”: “No, we have never been in that situation. Or done that. Or felt that way. No, we can’t help you.” I went through a period of being profoundly disappointed, not only with myself, but with the response of my Christian friends. Fortunately, God can use all kinds of people in our lives and it was from friends outside the church (including one irascible and laxly Catholic friend and an anorexic, pot-smoking, bisexual, feminist classmate) that I found acceptance and affirmation, and it was with them that my wounded soul healed. From them and others like them, I learned that there are lots of ways to be a good person, and that all of our experiences, good and bad, can make us better and stronger people. They made me feel worthwhile, like I had something to offer again to God and to those around me. I still value their friendships as much as any that I have ever had, and I have the tattoos to prove it.
Another key relationship began during that period of my life. I met my future husband, Chris, when I transferred to Columbus State and we became neighbors in the student apartments there. It is hard to believe that it has been sixteen years since we met. Now we are all grown up with careers, a house, two preschoolers and a dog.
Through the changes and ups and downs of my undergraduate years, I never lost my faith, although a few times I felt somewhat estranged from it. After I graduated from Columbus State, I went to graduate school at Auburn, and there, living off of my meager teaching assistant stipend, I felt like I was finally coming into my own as an adult. The grad students in my class bonded in a very special way, and I think of those three years as a sort of golden time in my life. Since I was only three hours or so from home, I visited my parents frequently and attended church with my mom once every few weeks. As a result, I didn’t feel the need to find a church home in Auburn. I visited a few churches, but I found that they increasingly left me feeling flat. I just didn’t seem to get much out of going to church anymore; after all, I already knew all the stuff that was being preached and taught anyway. Frankly, I was a bit bored by it all, so I settled for enjoying the fellowship back at Pine Level now and then.
That is how things progressed until I graduated from Auburn, got married, and Chris and I moved to Charlottesville so that I could pursue my PhD at the University of Virginia. I was excited about going to UVa, since it has one of the best Spanish PhD programs in the country, but I was also nervous about being so far from home and my parents. What would happen if Chris and I both got sick? If our cars broke down? In the more competitive atmosphere of UVa I wasn’t sure I would have the kind of grad student family I had at Auburn. It immediately dawned on me that I needed a church family. People who would know and love us and go to the grocery store for us if we had the flu. I know, it isn’t the best reason go to church. But there you have it.
I started looking at churches online, and made a list of potential places to visit. One place, Broadus Memorial Baptist Church, wasn’t very close to our neighborhood, and although there wasn’t much information online, I saw a picture of the pastor, Eric Howell, who looked like he wasn’t that much older than me. For some reason this struck me, and I put Broadus at the top of my list and soon went to visit. The service was orderly, formal, and quiet—too much so, it seemed to me. The congregation was mostly older, and although the pastor preached a good sermon I was fairly sure that this was not the church for me. I was pleased, however, when the pastor and his wife invited Chris and I out to dinner the next week. They took us to a nice Italian restaurant downtown, and afterwards I felt rather obliged to show up and give Broadus at least one more try. I went to Sunday School—to the “young adult” class that was comprised of people from their twenties to about fifty—and I found myself hooked. If God has ever intervened in my life and put me right where I needed to be, it was right then. I had never been in a church before where most of the people were like me—highly educated, intellectually curious, and open-minded. A church where people really thought about what they believed, interrogated it, and applied it to their lives in new and profound ways.
Eric was also a pastor like I had not encountered before. He never got worked up about the evils of drinking and promiscuous sex. He never stomped up and down and yelled about hell. He never turned red and took off his suit jacket. Instead, he taught—quietly and thoughtfully. He used sources I had never heard of to illustrate his sermons, like stories from Jewish midrash. He preached about what we, as loving and socially conscious Christians, ought to be doing to serve our fellow man rather than harping on the things that we already knew we shouldn’t do. He didn’t need to preach to us about sin all the time to step on our toes in profound ways. I almost always came away from his sermons feeling like I had learned something, and like I needed to take more responsibility for my actions as a Christian. Needless to say, I wasn’t bored anymore. I was challenged and stimulated. I suddenly hated to miss church, and being active in that wonderful community of believers made me feel fully involved with my faith once again.
4. Finding Myself, and my Role in the Community
After I had been at Broadus for a year or so, Eric decided to form a Sunday school class for the younger half of the “young” adult class. To kick off the new class, he had us take a test that was similar to the Myers-Briggs personality test, except that it was designed to tell you how you relate most effectively to God. There were categories for people who relate primarily through their emotions, through their senses (like through music or other stimuli), or through silent and calm meditation, etc. My category was no surprise: the test said that I related to God primarily on an intellectual level. Well, I must admit that I am a pretty big nerd, but in all seriousness, my test result was an epiphany. I suddenly realized why for several years before coming to Broadus I had felt bored and uninspired at church. As a child, I had primarily related to God and my faith on an emotional level, but as I had matured, that had changed without me realizing it. Most of the churches I had attended or visited appealed to that emotional response through music and dramatic sermons, but the teaching and preaching rarely went beyond what I had learned in my youth. For many people, that’s fine, but it wasn’t working for me. I had thought for a while that there was some kind of disconnect between me and the faith I knew that I had because I didn’t always seem to “feel” it appropriately. The realization that I relate better to my spirituality and to God through learning, thinking, and debating, rather than through emotionally manipulative sermons or altar-calls led to a much more fruitful spiritual life for me. Feeling close to God again and to my church family made the challenges I faced during my PhD program—especially those brutal comprehensive exams—so much easier to handle.
Understanding how I best relate to God also made a big difference in my prayer life. For a long time, I didn’t feel like I had much of a prayer life, because I never seemed to be very good at praying the way I heard other people pray in church. Instead of praying, I felt like I was just thinking about things, but when I tried to pray more formally, it felt artificial. I have since discovered that instead of more traditional prayer, I am good at what I call “prayerful thought.” That is, I spend a lot of time thinking about things “in God’s direction” or with God in mind. I think about needs and challenges in my own life and the lives of friends and family, about decisions I need to make, about how I should respond to people and events, and about my ever-evolving understanding of God and of the Bible. I sometimes talk directly to God, but more often I simply trust that God is there with me in the thick of my mental machinations, and that when I reach the right conclusion about something, God will give me a peace about it that I will recognize. It may not be the most conventional way of praying, but find that it works pretty well for me.
But back to the story. After four years in Virginia, Chris and I were more than ready to head back south, but I despaired that I would never find another church home like Broadus. When I accepted a job at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, I immediately got online to look at churches in the area. Specifically, I looked for churches like Broadus that were affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and, since my PhD work had finally converted me into a full-fledged feminist scholar, I had decided that I would not join a church that did not allow women to participate at all levels of church leadership. In short order, I found Weatherly Heights Baptist Church’s website. “An inclusive, discovering fellowship,” it read. Wow. It seemed like someone wrote that tagline just for me, and there was Rev. Jana Williams on the ministerial staff, and other women on the list of deacons. I knew that I had found a place where I would fit. It’s great to be a part of a church community where I can hear solid sermons and beautiful music on Sundays, exchange ideas with a female minister who is interested in global women’s issues, and have wide-ranging conversations about God, the Bible, and social issues in Sunday afternoon classes.
In my first few years as an active member at Weatherly, Rev. Howard Williams led the Sunday afternoon studies that I attended, and those classes helped me more clearly articulate ideas about my beliefs that had been percolating in my brain for a long while. Howard quickly became a much-loved spiritual mentor in my life, but sadly, he passed away in 2013. Shortly before his passing, I wrote him a letter in which I tried to sum up the impact that he had on my spiritual life. Here is part of what I wrote: “Although you have been my teacher, my experience as a student has not been so much about learning something new as it has been about the casting away of old things that I once knew, and that hindered my ability to see and feel God in my life. It’s been about reconciling the familiar but perplexing story of Jesus to what rings true to me about God’s love and mercy. In a way, it seems like you gave me permission to think of Jesus in a new way, as a Christ who sacrificed himself not because God was angry and demanded it, but in order to show us the mercy of a God who would forgive even his executioners. That’s what I think I know at the moment, but really, I don’t know. And that is the most wonderful thing—that I don’t know, and that I’ve learned to be just fine with the not knowing. All of the details fade away into the love and mercy of God.”
Though I still mourn Howard’s passing, his death prompted a new phase in my spiritual journey. He once introduced me to a group of people as “a thoughtful theologian,” a compliment that both surprised me and encouraged me to trust my instincts and follow my spiritual path independently. In his classes, I came to have confidence in my own ability to find, articulate, defend my own spiritual truth on topics that had bothered me for a long time: the equality of women in the church, the acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ people, and the belief in a God of love and grace rather than a God of judgment and punishment, to mention only a few. Howard’s mentorship and affirmation gave me confidence, and then his illness and passing unexpectedly pushed me into becoming a mentor and teacher for others, as I took over (very reluctantly at first) a Sunday afternoon study of my own. Reading and preparing to lead a series of progressively-minded book studies has opened whole new worlds of theological thought and resources to me, and though I am sad to have lost my friend Howard, I am grateful that his passing led me out into a wider world of engagement with my faith.
5. Where I am at the Moment (which is Subject to Change)
So I guess that brings me to where I am now in my spiritual life. A while back, in a series of theological debates with friends online, I tried to write down my current spiritual outlook in a nutshell. Considering where I began all those years ago, I like to think it is downright revolutionary in its pared-down simplicity, but really, it doesn’t contain anything very shocking. At any rate, here it is, in three points:
1) Jesus was born, lived, and died not to be a “sacrifice for our sins,” but to reveal to us who God is so that we could know, understand and be reconciled to God. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of what it means to embody the love of God (i.e., that we should love and serve our fellow man, even to the point of sacrificing everything). If we have a true relationship with God, then it should show itself in our actions – first and foremost as love.
2) The most important guidelines that we have are the two commandments that Jesus singled out: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and 2) love your neighbor as yourself. Entailed in this second command, as I see it, is a charge to actively love and serve others and to actively avoid doing things that could cause them harm.
3) I don’t really think that God is overly concerned with a lot of the things that we do as long as they don’t interfere with the those two commandments by turning our priorities away from our relationship with God or by causing harm to others. I like Paul’s standards of judgment in 1 Corinthians 6:12, although he probably wouldn’t agree with my application of them. He wrote, “‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but I will not be mastered by anything.” Being a good, moral person isn’t only about the sins you don’t commit; rather it’s about determining your actions based on how they affect your relationship with God and those around you. For me, perhaps the greatest virtues besides love are 1) self-control and 2) faithfulness, both to God and to the promises we make to others. Most other things are inconsequential.
So that’s it in a nutshell. I practice what I believe by trying my best to be a loving and faithful wife, mother, and friend and a caring and patient teacher. Sometimes I do better than others, especially when it comes to the patience part, but I try to make up for it by being generous with forgiveness and second chances. I focus on Micah 6:8 to remind myself of the person I want to be: “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Somehow I think the last part is the most important. To be humble, and to never think that I’m smart enough to have it all figured out.
I haven’t been on a missionary trip in quite a few years, and I haven’t given an inspirational pocket card to someone I thought “needed Jesus” in even longer. I do my best to reflect the values that are central to my spiritual life in my actions, and when opportunities arise, I often talk about the activities I am involved in with my church and about my opinions on God and Christianity. Not because I am trying to convert anyone, but because I am genuinely enthusiastic about my church and my God and I want people to know that. I hope that in a small way I shine a little light among my largely skeptical academic friends and my students who are often wondering whether to keep or discard their childhood faiths. When I unexpectedly accept that late composition from a student who didn’t really have a good excuse, or when I excitedly tell a colleague about how fascinating our church’s Lecture Series was this year, I hope that they see a faint reflection of the love of Christ in that. I suppose that is my current mission.
Earlier I made a reference to Camus’s myth of Sisyphus and his endless labor of toiling uphill. I have become convinced that the desire to know God, and the endless process of learning and refining one’s understanding is the basis of spiritual life. I may not always be precisely on the right track, but I think God that knows at the very least, I am sincere in my journey and I think that God respects and honors that. And so I will end by quoting the essay I wrote in 1998, because it is just as relevant now as it was then. “I am pushing my boulder up the hill of understanding, and every time learn something new, I am standing at the top. Then I think about how little I really do understand about God and life and my boulder plummets to the valley below. My labor is endless, and I have barely even begun. But like Sisyphus, I am happy. After all, if I understood everything, what would I have to think about? So, I start back up the hill: the rock is still rolling.”