The fog was wet and thick. It blanketed the university bringing with it – mystery. Things that were once familiar seemed now to have secrets. The world you thought you knew blurred into a world unexplored. Occasionally (as well as mystery) the fog also brought loneliness and solitude isolating you from the ones you love. And, sometimes, it just made you cold and wet and unwilling to venture outside.
Today the fog brought the latter two to Doctor Professor Daniel Charles Bartholomew Asclepius. He was cold and lonely. Specialization took you farther and farther from the mainstream where there were fewer and fewer people to relate to, he pondered. He set about building a fire while he waited for the arrival of his student Gentry. Cold he could solve.
Daniel was a leading professor in the study of Pneumatology. His focus was the spirit world and its interactions and influences (both direct and indirect) on the natural world. However, he was rattled this morning on the subject. He had been to dinner with a dear friend and colleague. They had met in the seminary and then parted professional paths, his friend going on to be a priest and him a scientist. They were catching each other up on their respective lives, when the evening took an unpleasant turn. As Daniel started to explain the details of what his studies were about, he couldn’t help noticing his friends face getting darker and darker.
“The study of Pneumatology, dear professor, is for the exclusive study of the Holy Spirit – not heathen superstitions,” He had said rising and throwing his napkin down. “I am afraid this dinner has left a bad taste in my mouth. I cannot thank you for the company”. And then he left the restaurant.
Daniel was shocked. He paid the bill and left. On his way out he was in time to see his friend preparing to get into a cab.
“Father Esposito, I did not mean to offend you.” Daniel said gently using full formality in honor of the grave situation they found themselves in. “Please accept my apology.”
“Apology accepted. However, I’m afraid our path ends here.” Father Esposito retreated into his cab and unceremoniously left.
The scene had repeated itself in Daniel’s head over and over all morning. He found himself pondering it again in front of the fire as it cast illumination. Had he found himself guilty of “cultural appropriation”? Was this the sole property of the Church? Did he have no right to interpretation and exploration? Was this study not his as well? Did he have no rights to it?
In Daniel’s mind these were ridiculous questions. Of course he had as much right as anyone else to personalize these ideas. He had advanced and influenced the science tremendously. He had taken dusty ideas and breathed new life into them. What did not evolve died.
As equally offended as he found himself, he also knew it was important feedback. Father Esposito was not the only one to feel this way he was sure. He had given an honest and emotionally charged response. Daniel needed to respect that and incorporate it. It shook him because he had never considered this prejudice and he was not sure how to proceed forward or what damage he had exposed his work to. This argument would need to be thoroughly considered. He had important work to do and he did not need the Church to develop undo interest or stand in his way claiming a copy write they did not own.
There was a knock on the door. Gentry had arrived. Daniel gratefully put these thoughts away. He had a brilliant and distressed student to address. This was a real concern with immediate implications.
He had discovered Gentry in a “trap” he often used to discover talent. His was not the sort of curriculum that could welcome just any student. For his use they needed to be gifted. As such the Professor “employed” a nasty spirit that resided near the bell tower on campus. The bell tower was fortunately on a frequently used path connecting many classes. It also had a lovely little park with a bench just across from it. Daniel would sit across and watch the many students of the university pass the bell tower on their way to class.
He was enjoying a cup of tea while sitting on the bench and reading a paper, when a young man walking past with his friends suddenly became very visibly upset and started looking around declaring to his friends “what the hell is that?” And that’s how Daniel discovered Gentry.
His friends of course had felt nothing and supposed a bee sting or some other physical ailment. Before the conversation could get too informative, Professor Asclepius interjected himself reassuring Gentry’s friends that he was a doctor and that they should continue to class without their freind.
“Come sit next to me young man,” invited Daniel taking a seat on the bench and patting the place next to him. “So, you wanted to know “what the hell was that” I believe.” “It is a malevolent spirit” said Daniel casually “But, I suspect you are not surprised by that. I suppose what surprised you are the strength of emotions it imparted to you. Tell me, what did you feel?”
Gentry looked at him with skepticism and relief. There was a pause like he was waiting for permission from himself and then he spoke “I felt horror… Not terror, not grief, not sadness, but absolute horror”.
“Yes, that’s consistent with what people with your gifts feel. I’m Professor Asclepius,” he said offering his had to shake.
“Asclepius? Any relation?” asked Gentry jokingly. “I’m Gentry,” he said taking the professors hand sheepishly. “How funny I never thought of it as a Gift”
How that gift had manifested, thought Daniel remembering that first meeting as he showed Gentry into his study and seated him next to the warm fire. Gentry’s mother had threatened to pull him from the school and the program and had ordered his return home which was why he was here. Daniel provided him some nutrition, they discussed some pleasantries, and then Daniel got right to the point.
“I wish to accompany you and speak with your mother directly. I hate to impose, but the Duchess would never grant me an audience so I mean to ambush her. While this department may be obscure, it is not underfunded. I will offer you a full scholarship, a small stipend, and travel expenses.”
“I’m sorry professor, but I don’t think you understand. My mother means for me to take over the family business. My education is no longer important to her.”
“No, my dear Gentry, I understand completely. I mean to make a business proposition with her of my own – one I feel will be mutually beneficial. Will you agree to let me treat with her?”
And so it was decided. Daniel would accompany Gentry to see his mother.
“Thank you Professor. I’m so relieved. I feared this was the end.” Gentry confessed as Daniel showed him to the door.
“That’s normal for your age,” reassured Daniel repeating a tag line he often used with patients. He patted Gentry’s shoulder, “to expect the end when it’s only the beginning in disguise. Remember that I am old and wise. Trust in that”.