We fly to San Antonio this Thursday, to attend meetings of the American Academy of Religion. Jerry will chair two panels and meet colleagues in connection with the project he founded: Theology Without Walls.
Why am I along? Not for the ride. I felt oddly, unexpectedly, happy in Texas, when we were there a few weeks back. But if I never see the Dallas Airport again, that’ll be fine with me. It’s as big as a small country and, if you have to make a connecting flight, that’s not good. Also, staying home is my favorite thing to do.
My task in San Antonio will be to further the publication chances for Confessions of a Young Philosopher, my just-completed book. I’ve got to find the book exhibits, try to get a rapid sense of which tables are showing books I’d like to chum with, and then talk briefly to publishers’ representatives who make themselves available at the tables. That brief talk is called “the elevator pitch.” It’s what you would say to a person in an elevator with you, just in the time it takes for the ride. Why is that so hard?
Have you heard about
With me, it’s almost a method, in that I don’t want my defenses to form so hard a shell that they filter out real life. I’m not a philosopher-by-trade. I really live the beliefs I hold. Also, I lived the ones I held, and have since discarded, when they didn’t meet the tests of my experience. So, as my version of a philosophic method, I need to undergo the shocks and reversals (and sometime epiphanies, small and large) of experience. The story of the inaugural phases of these experiences is what Confessions is about. So I’ve got vulnerability and it’s not well disguised.
The acquisitions editor’s question will be (I suppose):
“What’s your book about?”
“You are asking my employer, the publisher, to risk the firm’s money, time and honor on a book you wrote?
“Why should we?”
Because … it’s a book like no other. In 397-400 A.D., Augustine (the saint) wrote the first autobiography. It bears the title, echoed in mine, “Confessions.” Augustine’s first-person tale records his spiritual journey through the belief systems of his day, till he lands at Christianity, where his journey is fulfilled. On the whole, he sees the parade of influential opinions from the comfort of his study. The main actions mentioned reflect the pagan view, then current, that it’s fun to watch people kill each other (at “the circus”), and of course it’s nice to have a woman on the side. He had to give up those diversions when he became a Christian.
Without comparing myself to the great saint, the difference between my book of “confessions” and his is that my beliefs aren’t held fixed in intellectual space for inspection on the lineup of received hypotheses. Rather, my sense was that, if I meant what I said, I’d better live it. So Confessions of a Young Philosopher reads like a novel. Not because I’ve made it up or made it any jazzier than it was, but because our actual lives are stories.
One other difference is, of course, that I’m a woman. What difference does that make? Does “spirituality” have a sex?
That depends how you approach it. The way I approach it, it does. It’s been credibly reported that Hillary Clinton cried uncontrollably on the night the returns showed Trump winning the presidency. As a woman, I know that a lot of energy goes into not being seen crying uncontrollably.
What do you think “vulnerability” is? It’s an opening for experiences that would, if you stopped to take them in, put you at the bottom of a well of tears. I’m not talking about being a victim. Victims should resist that role, fight back and hold their own. I’m talking about
getting your heart broke.
For that, mother nature provides the only appropriate response: crying uncontrollably. Or at least crying as long as time and other obligations permit. In the story I tell in Confessions, I didn’t cry uncontrollably. I lived and learned and thought about it and, at present, can even see and say what it all meant. But the words! the words! — they are crystallized tears.
Now I’ve got to figure out
how to show a happy face
to the acquisitions editors.