6.15 am: Woke, showered, and engaged my presentation’s text. The more I rehearse the reading, the less likely I am to muff my lines, and the more confident and comfortable I’ll be in its delivery. Breakfast with colleagues was insightful and tasty.
It’s good to sit at feet of other scholars and artists, and to share in the riches of the diverse ecclesial traditions that they represent. Rarely have I sensed such unanimity of vision and purpose at an academic gathering. There was a hunger for knowledge, a burden to share, and grace in the reception. We were looking beyond the visible through the visible.
The primary objective of any conference is to keep the troops fed and watered. All other considerations are secondary, in my opinion. The convenors acquitted themselves in an exemplary fashion. With a plate in one hand and a cup and saucer in the other, friendships were forged, fellowship had, and our mutual understanding deepened. I suspect that we’ll have conversations like this in heaven, too. Why not? For we were, together, loving more than our subjects with our whole minds.
Throughout the afternoon I was distracted by the prospect of what might go array with my keynote speech and ‘performance’. It’s always difficult to shake off such ‘demons’. As it turned out, the item of equipment that failed me was my cheap book light – which gave up the ghosts after half-an-hour. (I hadn’t anticipated this scenario. But I’ll always do so on future occasions.) My only apprehension about delivering the sound work was not my ability perform but the audience’s capacity to comprehend. Understandably, most of those present didn’t possess the requisite prior knowledge of the traditions of sound art to process what they were hearing. Nevertheless, they took it unto themselves in a spirit of generosity, good will, and acceptance. What more can an artist expect?
In the evening we, as it were, ‘broke bread’ with one another over dinner, held at the chapel of the Bishop Otter campus of the university. Towards the close of the evening, and prior to our participation in a sung compline, Sara Mark performed, with several other women, the ritual of washing a Shroud, in a piece called Lavant. It evoked in my mind the narrative of the two Marys and Salome anointing Christ at the tomb.