Gustave Caillebotte, “Portrait of Henry Cordier” (1883)

I have decided to begin again.

There’s something fresh about beginning again. Often in teaching I find myself planning for August’s first history lectures before closing out the final grades of May. Sometimes beginning again is an excuse one gives when he does not want to finish. My reading history is littered with the beginnings of books I have begun, read some thirty-fifty pages, and then some other work captures my interest, and down goes the first.

This incipit (lit., he begins) is the second incarnation (reincarnation?) of ponticianus, which is itself a personal reboot with new ideas of my portmanteaus project. Where portmanteaus, which still exists, was a notebook of words, etymologies, phrases, clips, and longer quotes  with very little personal reflection outside the occasional update, ponticianus was intended to focus my own writing powers on original pieces, letters to the editor, and potential chapters for those books I want to sit down and write. Pontianus was a creative vestibule of my theological heart and imagination following my time in graduate school, after which I was buzzing with exciting ideas and vigor to write. Four years to the good, yet here we are.

The whole matter reminds me of my first few years out of Hampden-Sydney, my undergraduate education (2000-2004). I had planned to teach for a few years (two or three) and then return to serious, i.e., graduate, school. But two or three turned into seven years before returning to school. Sure some of that time was wasted, and many of my habits and powers of reading, writing, and argument slipped as I passed from being a 21-year-old to arriving at Duke at 28.

Ponticianus, a name taken from one of Saint Augustine’s mates in the earliest days of his conversation to Catholic Christianity, has been my online moniker for social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, as a weblog never quite took off. Part of this has to do with other matters — that I support a family that continues to grow; that I returned to teaching and coaching, or giving talks to Catholic young adults groups, teaching catechism and RCIA classes, etc. But even amid all these important matters, especially family life, there is little excuse for how little I’ve spent cultivating a life of letters.

Most of this, I am certain, is due to a few other contributing/diminishing factors: not reading newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or even Raleigh’s The News and Observer) regularly; not reading magazines, especially long-form material; and certainly spending too much time on those very social media websites listed above, and others. The list goes on.

A former student recently wrote a column for her college campus’s (consciously) Catholic newspaper within weeks of her matriculation. This example of diligence shows that writing while even keeping up the busiest of schedules boils down to writing in the nooks and crannies we find amid the busyness of everything else. Writing is simply writing, and the most important part is often beginning.

And so I begin again.