musings from my rich inner world…
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Who Am I?

This is one of the first pages I ever wrote for my first websites, but the original version had worn a little thin, so decided to re-write it…

That's me... standing in front of some books on queer theology...My name is Bryce…

Depending on who you ask, it’s either a Celtic name that means quick or a Welsh name that means speckled. I’m going with the former because my wit is more prominent than my spots…

If I’m being official, then it’s Bryce E. Rich. What does the E stand for? I may tell you if I get to know you and like you. (Or with distressingly little effort you can find it in public records on the Internet.)

But is that who I am?

If we were speaking French I’d say, "I call myself Bryce."[1] If we were speaking Russian I’d say, "They call me Bryce."[2] Many years ago, when we were more in touch with the idea that words have power, I might have said, "you may call me Bryce." That’s my given name.

To complicate matters, just before Easter of 2012 I got a new name, but it currently only gets used when I commune during the Eucharist…

I’m not sure that I know my real name yet. But you can bet when I learn it I won’t be publishing it on a website…

A Bryce by any other name?

By my count there are at least 8 folks on the Internet who go by either Bryce Rich or Rich Bryce. I bring up the latter since my names often get switched by folks who seem to think Rich makes a better given name…

Those Bryces are all around: Utah, Oregon, Nevada, Tennessee, Georgia… A student, a nuclear scientist, a scooter enthusiast… None of those are me.

Somehow I am different from any other Bryce that I have ever met or heard of. So there must be more to it than just a name. The search continues for the truth…

From the peanut gallery…

In a less-than-modest moment, I wrote an email to a few people who serve as a cross-section of my closer relationships over the past several years. Having found this to be a useful exercise, I did it again a few years later and opened the door to ongoing comments.

You can read comments from 2008 and new observations from 2010 here. Or you can just click on this handy Wordle and see what they said:

a Wordle of descriptors people have offered up in description of me

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

For those who understand it, I’m an Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiver, commonly abbreviated as INTP – one of the four Rational temperaments sometimes known as the Architect.

But lest we get carried away with stereotypes, my current studies have masked my laid back, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants tendencies with a massive drive to schedule almost everything in life months in advance. It helps me cope with the endless marathon of deadlines.

And while I test pretty far to the intuitive side, I also have a lot of sensing points, setting me apart from other scholars who live in their heads, but seldom notice red lights or billboards.

But one thing I’ve learned over the past couple of years: I really, REALLY like solitude. I think it may have started with living in a basement in Arlington, Virginia. Things got even better when I learned that, in spite of what I was taught while growing up, the phone was created for me and not me for the phone — I don’t have to pick it up just because it rings. But the real turning point was an 8-day silent retreat with the Jesuits. That’s when I discovered how much is going on in the silence… and how much I love it!

Student of Life, Student of Religion

a Venn diagram showing where Russian, queer theory, and Christianity overlap

Click for a larger view

I’m a doctoral candidate in theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. The road to this point has been a series of zigs and zags, through 5 US states and a 6-year stint abroad in Russia during which I lived in Siberia and Moscow and traveled the country from one end to the other.

From an undergrad in Russian & Eastern studies, to a masters in religion from a seminary, to my current work where the two intersect with my interest in queer theory, something of a trajectory seems to be taking shape…

On Easter weekend 2012 I was received into the Eastern Orthodox Church. The journey to this point has, like so many other things in my life, been a wandering path that only when I look back appears to have a trajectory.

I was raised Southern Baptist, but left organized religion about the same time I left home for college, unable to reconcile my sexuality with the faith of my community.

When I moved back stateside from Russia, I went back to church, spending time with nondenominational Charismatics, the Assemblies of God, and the Metropolitan Community Churches. MCC opened my understanding of Holy Communion as a sacrament and gave me my first glimpses of liturgy.

From MCC I went on to the Episcopal Church where my love of liturgy was further nurtured. I also did a stint among the Mennonites where the value of discipleship was reaffirmed for me. Eventually I ended up in a United Church of Christ (UCC) seminary and returned to MCC.

While I was unchurched and wandering in Russia, I occasionally visited Russian Orthodox churches to pray in quiet and lit candles before icons. So there seems to be a natural progression to my interest in Eastern Orthodox theology.

But reading theology in a classroom is never quite like the lived experience in a community, so during the spring of my first year of doctoral studies I began to attend an Eastern Orthodox parish.

After a year of attending services and learning firsthand how Orthodox Christians live their theology in real life, I was received into my current jurisdiction.

In my spare time I read, research whatever catches my interest, and write. Some of the things I work on show up on this website.

Oh, and I do web work on the side to pay the taxes on my student stipend…

What do I like?

I like (in no particular order) cats, reading, bowling, movies, computers, SyFy’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica and any new topic that catches my interest. When I find something interesting, I’ll pursue everything I can find out about it until my curiosity is sated. I enjoy asking tough questions and I’m comfortable living in the tension of paradox and the unknown.

I love language, because it is an art form that tries to approximate what we feel inside. Sometimes a particular language can convey your heart’s desire with pinpoint accuracy, while other times it is a blunt club that can only bludgeon and destroy. I enjoy the challenge of conveying meaning in ways that people can understand.

I love music, because like language it is appropriate to conveying mood and thought. There are lots of forms that music follows that have special meanings to me: dykes with guitars, Euro pop (including a lot of Russian popsa), orchestral music (be it classical or movie scores), 80s music, country music. Tight harmonies from ensemble groups drive me to ecstasy. I am also partial to contemporary praise and worship music, especially much of what has been produced by Hillsong Music in Australia.

Science and the fiction it empowers hold a special place in my life. I admire Sci-fi authors because the good ones create worlds where we can suspend our own preconceptions about how the universe works. Then, once our guards are down, they can poke at the sacrosanct. For those who stop to think, and opportunity arises to reevaluate…

What do I dislike?

My sense of balance is thrown off by being unprepared. As such, I hate surprise invitations to speak and I get really serious when I get lost in unfamiliar territory. Surprisingly, this didn’t happen while I lived in Russia as it was part of the game there – walk up to someone and say, "excuse me, but how do I get to…" For some reason I had no problem reacting calmly when I was lost there. The mystery to me is why I never expect it in America.

A Dos Equis advertisement circa 1999Perhaps paradoxically, I hate routine in my job. I dislike repetitive tasks and am bored stiff by detail-oriented work. This problem is exacerbated by schedules, which are confining and do not allow me to address new priorities as they appear.

When I was leaving Moscow to become Director of Operations for my NGO stateside, my boss gave me the postcard on the right. On the back she inscribed:

"Management has no routine – you will long for it some days."

Well, Susan, those days still haven’t come yet…

As I mentioned above, I live in a world that works better with scheduled events. So I’ve adapted. From MS Outlook calendar to iCloud — my life is now synchronized from desktop to laptop to phone to iPad.

Other people’s music. The person on the metro whose iPod is up so loud that I can hear their heavy metal on the way to work… The car that thumps its way past my house at 10 PM… The person in the apartment above me who insists on listening to the same song for the third time in one hour…

I can ignore airplane engines, washers and dryers, and even televisions (most of the time). But music highjacks my thoughts.

Car horns are for an emergency use only. Otherwise, I think the use of a car horn in a spurious or whimsical manner should be subject to the consequence of electric shock. The way I see it, car seats should be equipped with a set of electrodes that make light but firm contact with certain regions of the seated human body. When the horn is sounded, an electrical current should pass through the driver as a reminder of the serious nature of signaling with a horn. This mechanism should have sufficient strength to be uncomfortable to all but the most hardcore masochists.

Dressing up makes my neck swell. The shirt that fit just fine at the store will not button correctly at the collar when I put on a tie over it. And despite a lot of practice, I can’t seem to iron a straight crease in my pants. Over the past several years I have arranged my life so that t-shirts and jeans are my uniform. After all, to perform at your best you should be comfortable.


 

[1] Je m’appelle Bryce.
[2] Меня зовут Брайс. (or for the non-Cyrillic readers among you, Menia zavut Brajs).

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