RL is frustrating and stressful most days right now, but strangely enough today it’s coming up roses much more than I usually expect.
The biggest good news of the day is, I submitted a paper proposal for the American Academy on Religion‘s annual meeting. I hadn’t even heard about the meeting because the conference today because I think it’s more interdisciplinary than most of the mailing lists I follow. The topic is pretty interesting, if I do say so myself. The ninety-second version: many religious people pray with the expectation that this prayer will actually change things. (They pray for God to, say, make their sports team win and assume this prayer will cause the team to win when they wouldn’t have without the problem.) But how do you square that with the idea that God’s all-good? Either He has to change His actions and let something less good happen than He’d originally planned, or else He has to be ready to not do as good of things as He could if someone doesn’t pray for it. I’d like to give it the old college try on this question, and it looks like a great conference all around. Even if I don’t get accepted I at least have the basic gist of a journal paper outlined out.
Also, it’s struck me that I’m really an analytic philosopher. Yes, they do exist in philosophy or religion. That means that laying out plausible definitions and looking at the logical implications and such. I try to expand my horizons and think I’ve done pretty well on that front. But really, at the end of the day analytic philosophy seems to come so easily.
I actually found a decent coffee shot on Fordham Road today. Partly this was because I needed a wifi connection to submit my paper proposal by an hour ago, and have some errands to run before going home so I wasn’t sure I’d make that deadline. Oddly, I walked right past the library before making that decision. But I got a cranberry muffin and a cup of iced milk, and they’ve eft me alone for the last two hours. I could do worse.
In other good news, I discovered the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion (a really good conference in my corner of philosophy, I enjoyed it thoroughly the last time I went two years ago) still is accepting proposals. I got a little frustrated when I saw that my uni’s grad student funding for conference travel had been cut again, which I know is happening department wide and really economy wide. Really, I could write a whole post on the exploitative and disrespectful aspects of American academia these days, and probably will one of these days. In many ways, I’m very pampered at present, and I’m not complaining about me personally. But even so, it’s very hard to get to an international conference when you really are just starting out and not making much money, when objectively you probably need it most.
That said… I decided to think optimistically and apply, and then figure out how to get there when I get in. Their theme is “atheisms,” and I’m considering writing about W.K. Clifford. He famously said that it’s always wrong to believe something without sufficient evidence, and I suspect this privileges certain types of personalities over others. (Some people seem more evidence-driven than others, they’re more concerned with arguments, and I don’t necessarily think this is a defect that needs fixing. Some people just seem more intuitive than others and may think about things in less analytic terms than I do, and seem perfectly capable of living a good kind of life. One problem I have with Clifford’s argument is that it seems like it forces people to become all the same type, and I think it would be fun to flesh out whether this is a problem or not. So I’m going to go ahead and work out a proposal and send it in. (Clifford’s paper isn’t strictly speaking about religion or atheism, but it’s often used in philosophy of religion to explain why, if you can’t prove God exists, you have no right believing it.)
I don’t know if the topic will fly, and I don’t know how I’ll afford to get there if I do get in. But you’ve got to play to win, right?
On slightly different topics, I had a ThinkChristian piece I wrote a while ago, on whether the Bible supported pacifism or righteous violence or something in between, finally get published. Things have been busy there so I was happy to wait. But if you’re interested in this topic do check it out! Interestingly I think I swung a bit too far toward the side of using violence for self- and other-defense, and it’s very gratifying to see commenters say perhaps pacifism is more in line with what the Bible says, since that’s my own angle as well. I also had a BMEM piece about Aragorn’s coronation that’s gotten a lot of positive feedback. Which has me smiling a bit. Plus, I spent most of yesterday’s hour on the couch talking about teaching and how much I missed it and how I didn’t feel like I was fully myself when I spent significant time not in front of the classroom, and it really helped me regain some of my balance.
And finally, the other day I stumbled across a new favorite song.
It gives me such a sense of peace, somehow. Actually I’m imagining a crossover fanfic story where Boromir and Rue meet in the Halls of Mandos. It seems to be the kind of story I can’t tell fully without ruining the magic of the moment, though I may try it again one of these days. Still, the magic of the moment and listening to the song just makes me smile.
This is all juxtaposed against some pretty serious stress these days, and I won’t pretend I’ve gone all Pollyannaish. If anything life’s a real emotional wheeler-coaster these days. And it can be exhausting to go from laughing to crying inside a single hour. I miss volunteering, I miss teaching, I miss the sun, I miss specific people, I miss my music, and I miss the me I want to be, who’s making too few appearances these days. I also know other people are busy and weighted down a bit, too, more than a bit, and I wish I could be there to support them. But since there are a few good things going on today, I wanted to focus on them.