The Oasis: Particularity of Time and Space


green leaf and stonesRecently after work one day, I headed over to the Oasis.

No, the Oasis is not a new campus “lounge,” not in the traditional sense—though it is true that the lighting was low, the candles aglow and the music relaxing as a small group of students, faculty and staff gathered on floor cushions and chairs.

But this Oasis is a neutrally consecrated space that forms part of the recently reimagined Chaplain’s Office digs in the Alvarez College Union.

I say “consecrated” rather than “sacred,” because the “holiness” (or “wholeness,” same root) of the Oasis springs from whatever group or individual is using it at the moment, and for what purpose.

It is about time and space working together, for particularity.

The open-source time and space of the Oasis are an opportunity par excellence for “particularity in pluralism,” says Chaplain Rob Spach ’84. In a given day, the Oasis might serve as a vessel for prayer, meditation, music or scriptural study by Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other students and student groups. The movement of yoga and the simplicity of stillness are equally welcome. The business of academic study and the busy-ness of digital communications devices, blessedly, are not.

The hour I first believed I would join in at the Oasis was for Taizé, a form of contemplative music created in the mid-20th century by the ecumenical Christian religious order of the same name centered an hour north of Lyon, France.

Taizé words and music are simple, chant-like, melodious, deepening with each repetition. Taizé takes time.

So we sang. At some point, some of us lit candles for reasons known only to us, and placed them on a map of the world that was spread on the floor.

And we sang. And then several participants read a scriptural passage in multiple languages, empowering the words with both particularity and pluralism.

And we sang. And the sound of our voices blended into the fading autumn light of windows that have long gazed on this Davidson space in all its particularities, from gymnasium to office space to Oasis.

Time slowed down. Or maybe it sped up. Hmm. It doesn’t matter: There we were, together in solitude, just being, in front of everyone, and you know, God…

I looked up “god” once. It comes from the Indo-European root gheu(ə)-, to call or invoke. That’s it: calling, invoking. I proudly presented this finding to a man of the cloth named Mark, opining something like, “I favor the coolness of this etymological contextualization, for it indicates the pre-religiosity, nay, universality of an action I may or may not take on a given day in response to my own humanity: ‘invoking,’ ‘calling’ on a greater power…”

He smiled. He paused. He said: “What if it’s God calling you?”

I’m guessing it’s both. And all the more reason for the Oasis, this “temple” in the “contemplative” sense. Both words spring from the Latin templum, a “space held open for observation and marked by augurs or seers.”

It strikes me that Davidson overall is a temple in this contemplative sense, too, of higher learning and higher selves, individually and together.

Particularity and pluralism, faith and reason, time and space.


Online Extra

Hear Chaplain Rob Spach on WFAE or listen below.


About Author

Senior Writer John Syme graduated from Davidson with a French degree in 1985. After gigs in newspaper, advertising, translation in France and cross-country travel writing in the United States, he returned to alma mater in 2001. He has no immediate plans to graduate again.

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