Some reflections on a recent week spent in Provo:
1. It has quirks, but BYU seems like a fine place to study and work. The beautiful setting, fantastic resources, and dedicated teachers make BYU a jewel in the church’s crown. Which is why it is so important to get it right.
2. Three cheers for the Maxwell Institute. It’s not an easy job holding faith promotion in harmony with sound scholarship, especially with the added pressure of being named after a beloved apostle. I think they have done it. CPART is particularly impressive as is the new venture to promote LDS biblical scholarship (Studies in the Bible and Antiquity).
3. I had a chuckle at the evidence I saw of BYU profs who drink a Diet Coke for breakfast and/or keep a ‘Coke fridge’ in their offices. Even BYU needs caffeine, it seems.
4. Having said that, the American practice of offering free refills on soft drinks might seem generous, but it’s a terrible thing really. I drank more syrup in a week than I do in a month just because it ran cheaply. Here’s to European anti-freedom policies.
5. The Law School building is brutal.
6. The I-15 corridor is a ghastly scar on an otherwise spectacularly beautiful landscape.
7. Living on the east coast as I did (2002-2006) does not prepare you for the vastness of the western landscape. Driving from Provo to Moab, I felt like Frodo leaving the Shire. I cannot fathom living in a place where the nearest city is 5 hours away. Still, the emptiness of the desert, particularly in the other-worldly Canyonlands, had me thinking of Terry Tempest Williams:
If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to self. There is no place to hide, and so we are found.
8. USA Today is a terrible newspaper. No wonder they give it away free in the Marriott.
9. I am always struck with how Americans take low-brow eating out so seriously. Everyone I met had a favourite place: best burgers, best Chinese, best French toast, best Tex-Mex. Over here, unless we are talking about gourmet eating, most restaurants are simply judged on price, the food being pretty homogeneous.
10. Too many ads on TV. How anyone survived before Tivo or streaming, I cannot imagine.