Please forgive me in advance. What you are about to read may geek out, gush, and glow. I can’t help it—I am still ablaze from the glorious “Coming Home” weekend. From the emails I’ve received in the aftermath, so too are many others who attended parts or all of the weekend.
I couldn’t attend on Saturday because I was home with new puppy duties, but I was there Friday and Sunday. For me, the highlight of Friday was being the “mistress of ceremonies” for the alumni book reading and signing event. As I introduced each fellow alum and their book title/s, I was struck by the diversity of our interests, by the range of our contributions. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry, workbooks, children’s books—you name the genre, and we’ve written within it. History, literature, science, culture, mythology, psychology, business, spirituality—you name the topic, and we’ve written about it. And so many of the books were transformed dissertations, because here at Pacifica we are encouraged to research and write about what we are passionate about, and that passion abides long past the oral defense and often longs to find expression in the pages of a published book. I opened the event by acknowledging that we represented only a fraction of the alum publications out there by our peers who could not join us, and I’ll close this paragraph by acknowledging the many of you with potential publications in progress—I sprinkle you with some of the fairie-dust of inspiration that fell upon us all that evening.
Sunday morning was truly one of the apexes of my career thus far. As some of you know, I did my dissertation in the Depth Psychology program on Martin Luther King, Jr., developing the idea of “cultural therapy” and looking at how King served as a therapist for the culture at large during the Civil Rights Movement. I revised the dissertation and self-published it under the title Integration: The Psychology and Mythology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and His (Unfinished) Therapy With the Soul of America. Our Angel of Alums, Dianne Travis-Teague, invited me to give a presentation Sunday morning on King in honor of his birthday, which would be celebrated nationally the following day. I readily and gratefully accepted.
I have been reading, researching, writing, and speaking about King for the last fourteen years, so finding subject matter was not a problem! The challenge instead was honing in on one topic, one suitable to honor both King’s legacy, and the theme of coming home to Pacifica. I thought about Pacifica’s motto, anima mundi colendae gratia, and the many ways we as alums are tending the soul of the world, out in the world. King used the same language of soul—the mission of his organization was “To Save the Soul of American,” and he often times replaced the word “save” with the word “redeem.” To achieve that mission, King called upon all of us to be “creatively maladjusted” to the suffering and injustice of the fallen world. So I knew I wanted to talk about creative maladjustment, because for many of us, that’s what brought us to Pacifica in the first place.
I also thought about what sustained us in our journey through Pacifica, and that is community. I hadn’t realized how brilliant the cohort model of education is until I taught at a university without it, and I was able to reflect upon its many gifts. King’s term for this kind of community is “the beloved community,” and he devoted and sacrificed his life to hasten the creation of the beloved community. And I knew I wanted to talk about that as well, about the beloved community.
I titled my talk, then, “Martin Luther King, Jr., Creative Maladjustment, and the Beloved Community.” I sent the title into Dianne, who then set out to find a panel of folks to speak after my presentation, to share what they have been creatively maladjusted to throughout their lives, and what they’ve done inspired by their maladjustment on behalf of the beloved communities within which they live and serve. This all happened in the fall.
And then, I just forgot about it all. I went about my merry holiday season way, ho ho hoing instead of write, write, writing my presentation. Until the “oh shit” day came in January when I realized the presentation was right around the corner. I turned new puppy duties over to my beloved, and I got in the car and headed out to some inexpensive hotel where I could hole up and write the presentation.
I didn’t get very far. About ten minutes into my drive, the words came pouring out of me, and luckily, into my IPhone’s audio memo app! In the days leading up to the event, I honed those words and worked on the images and video clips that would accompany the talk. I trusted that Dianne was putting together a good panel, and gave that part of the day little thought, focusing instead on the time when all eyes would be on me.
Saturday night before the talk, I printed out the biographies of the panel members that Dianne sent me. And here’s when I got geeked out. Dianne didn’t just put together a good panel, she put together a great panel. A senator, a mayor, a county supervisor, a pastor, plus community leaders and activists and educators and psychotherapists. I shifted from being concerned about all eyes on me and got excited to have my eyes on them!
All of our eyes feasted upon them on Sunday morning, where we celebrated MLK, “The King of Peace,” at the Ladera campus, which when owned by the Jesuits was called “The College for the Queen of Peace.” And there, at our college, at our alma mater, the King and the Queen came together in a transcendent, alchemical, most memorable moment which will remain long etched in the soul body of Pacifica and the souls of all those in attendance. It was beautiful, powerful, inspiring, and moving, and it was an honor to be part of it, to be a part of the whole lovely weekend.
I know, I know. I’m geeked out, gushing, and glowing, still. You can’t say I didn’t warn you, and I can’t say I won’t stay this way for a long, long time—or at least until the next Amazing Alumni event.
I’ll see you there.
– Jennifer Selig, Ph.D.
Associate Chair, Hybrid Programs