I attend a school with a community agreement. One aspect of this agreement is that while enrolled, students will not use alcohol. For me, this has created a holy calendar of sorts. During the term, while taking classes, I abstain. It makes the term different--set apart, if you will.

The day the term ends, I have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. This year it was beer--Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout to be exact--and a double cheese burger (which goes quite well with room temp stout). This ritual--and it is a ritual--helps me transition from the hectic term into less hectic regular time. It moves me from intense scholarly focus to a broader life focus.

Some balk at the notion of abstaining. This is unfortunate. It is unfortunate because in coming to this school one promises to abstain. Keeping such a promise trains the soul to keep other promises; it helps to develop self-control. It is unfortunate because abstention helps define a glass of Merlot or a bottle of Stout as intentional action rather than escape or habit (attitudes all too common in our culture).

Such fine things as academics and a good stout ought to be given their proper due.


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  1. Laura,

    I found this a very touching anecdote sharing something of that magical moment. And my mouth watered at the thought of the burger and stout.

    And my first question was: is there a matching ritual to mark the end of regular time?

    And then I went on to wonder about this whole concept. What is a 'community agreement'? If there is commitment to the community how does it suddenly evaporate at a certain moment? What is happening here - "OK people, we are going to form community, be committed to one another and to God, and part of that shared life involves abstaining from certain things and participating together in certain things." And everyone responds "And so say we all!" and low! a community is formed and takes on life and lives together.

    But only for a season ... the calendar rolls on ... regular time begins and the community disperses ... no more commitment to one another and to God. Back to the wine, women and song ... give me break ... let me have some ordinary time to myself.

    Is that how it works?

    And does 'enrolment' end at the end of term time or at the end of the course? Do you re-enrol after the Christmas break?

    Sorry for rambling. Maybe this is a discussion topic for over a burger and stout rather than via blog comments. Mouth watering again ... Best burger and stout I ever had was in a place in Silicon Valley, the fries were all curly, the slices of bacon were massive (must have bigger pigs in the USA) and the stout was from the brewery through the glass wall behind the bar.

    Be blessed in regular time,

    Andrew B

  2. Students join a community in progress, as it were. The agreement is part of our becoming members. It says that we will "refrain from the use of alcoholic beverages and tobacco in any form, and from gambling." In other words, while we are enrolled in classes, we refrain.

    There is much discussion on this topic, especially among undergraduates--they assume the university is being overbearing and parental. Maybe so. From my view, this is one practice that defines who we are. If you choose to come to this school, you sign on to the community agreement. This decision teaches control; it does not remove the opportunity to learn control.

    As for the ritual returning to "academic time," for me it is very similar. I buy my books at the book store, take them home, and savor one last glass.

    [Written while enjoying a Guinness Extra Stout--no burger this time...bummer.]