My plantar fasciitis is abating, so I hope to resume running in a few days — but for now, it’s the bus for me.
Today’s a year since I was permitted to reveal that I’d been made redundant at St Stephen’s House. Wonderful as everyone at Regent’s Park has been, spending a year looking for work (and having reason to conclude that my age is one mark against me, making me now a year older and less employable) has been… unpleasant, and I do very earnestly hope that some college or congregation finds a use for me before too long.
Plantar fasciitis still plaguing me; no miles today (well, to be exact, I walked more than two miles both of the last two days, but that’s incidental walking, not running for mileage, nor is it walking all the way to and from work). I may sneak out from work to price a new pair of trainers or some insoles today….
Yesterday David Weinberger posted his response to the Apple Vision Pro promo video (I mistyped ‘pormo video’, which suggests a very different sort of clip); he proposed reading the video as the product (‘the video is the actual product: it claims a new space for Apple.’)
David’s exactly right, I think, especially when he says ‘I was impressed by the video under-selling its 3D capabilities. That took a lot of marketing restraint.’ I’d argue, though, that David undersells the pivotal importance of this feature. A couple of years ago, I wrote that ‘the flatland of 2D screen interaction drains me of vitality. Zoom doesn’t afflict me with headaches, but stupefies me.’ If I understand the Apple video correctly, though, the headset actually processes (or ‘effectively simulates’) 3D vision as part of their FaceTime messaging/conferencing app; that would vastly heighten my interest in video communication, and although I’m not lining up to evacuate my retirement savings to buy this first iteration of the device, I suspect that this is the killer app for AR more than gaming, which has already been simulating dimensionality for more than two decades. The difference between ‘flat chat’ and 3D chat will be like the difference between 2D side-scrollers and FPS/MMRPG game worlds — and that’s a big, big difference.
I’ve been getting some web traffic recently looking for my book of sermons, Flesh and Bones, in PDF form; that’s heartening, though I realised that I’ve been preaching longer since Margaret and I compiled those sermons as a benefit for St Luke’s than I had been preaching all told when it was compiled. (That sounds confusing. I mean, ‘that selection of sermons draws on less than half of my preaching years’). Another post mentions the Big Bible project and links to a number of places at that site, which no longer exists and which wasn’t archived on the Wayback Machine. Big Bible was a relatively well-financed operation, shinier and better publicised than the Disseminary — and the Disseminary made some missteps, and was ‘ahead of its time’ — but my sisters and brothers, I’m still here, links to me mostly resolve, and I gradually fix broken links. Hit-and-run splashy projects come and go; but the vision I proposed, along with Trevor, is still standing.
This is the last day of teaching in my BTh classes at Regent’s which means these may be my last lectures, ever (depending on how my job search turns out). My Regent’s students have been very good, very generous and patient, and I greatly appreciate having been given the chance to work here this year. Here’s to whatever comes next!
Last evening the [Oxford] Graduate Christian Union had its weekly meeting, for which their Secretary conducted an interview with me. I think the interview went very well — the group was willing to listen through what I proposed, and seemed to recognised some of the problems I cited in the ways that biblical studies — as an articulated discipline — operates. And they laughed at me a lot, which shows that they had a keen sense of how risible my ideas are. A splendid time was had by all, they gave me a delightful wee gift bag from M&S (chocolate, jam, hand cream, and spiced apple infusion — Margaret thinks I should speak with them every week), and I tottered home around ten o’clock. After my second ends lecture at 5:00 tonight, I have no what-you’d-call extracurricular activities till Friday, and my weary aching bones are eager for that rest….
We hadn’t spent significant time with the Feeneys for donkey’s ears, so this overnight visit to Wolverhampton only just began refreshing the connections that time has allowed to grow paler. Our hearts were fed as we caught up on shared sympathies through turbulent years, and news of our younger Feeney friends. My sermon at the patronal Mass seemed to satisfy the congregation, and we got the chance to greet my former student supervisee Fr Ross Brooks at Evensong last night.
Then we struck out to introduce Flora and Minke to National Rail, which they navigated with about as much grace as we could reasonably ask of a hyperanxious Yorkie and a placid, if occasionally peevish, Malt-Apso. Our train to Oxford was cancelled because earlier in the day a passenger fell ill (there must be more to the story, but the public remains in the dark about the rationale). We then had to catch a train to Birmingham New (the blood runs cold) to catch the last direct train to Oxford at 20:01 — which we would have caught had the up-to-the-second digital signage that told us ‘This train is on time — arrival 19:51’ hadn’t kept on saying that for ten minutes as we waited on a siding outside the station until the train finally pulled up to Platform 4. We got to Platform 1a well after the Oxford train had left.
First the GWR passenger desk steered us to the National Rail Customer Reception desk, which then steered us to a train to London Euston which stops at Banbury (and dozens of other small stations for towns I didn’t even know existed); at Banbury we waited for a (late)… Rail Replacement Bus (cue the Wilhelm Scream). Ten or fifteen minutes after the bus was set to arrive, we boarded the bus from Banbury to Oxford, and rolled into Oxford just after a 5 bus departed the bus ranks at Oxford Station. Another twelve minutes on, the next bus arrived; and about ten minutes after midnight we staggered through the front door and, in very short order, keeled over into our beds.
This morning we attended the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Wolverhampton, where our very dear friends Fr Damian and Fiona Feeney preside from a beacon-top from which you could see Russia, if the earth didn’t curve and the atmosphere were clearer and those pesky trees would move aside a bit. I was preacher for their patronal Mass, which went very satisfactorily. It has been spectacular and heartening to spend time with our wonderful Feeneys, for Damian and me to talk shop, and for Minke and Flora to visit Wolverhampton (they haven’t come, and won’t come, to the vicarage, since Noot outweighs the two of them together, and Fitz outweighs the three others, possibly by double).
Back to Ox tonight, back to the coal face in the morning….
I only ran one mile this morning — plantar fasciitis has come back, with genuine commitment. I’ve had problems with my plantar fascia before, so I recognise the symptoms; the main question concerns what to do about it. My trainers are probably at the end of their lifespan; this will mark the first time I’ve worn out the cushioning of a pair of shoes before I wore out the sole, but by now this pair has run an appreciable distance; I think I bought it before the pandemic, so that’s probably four years ago. That’s a lot of running.
I should refresh my insoles, too, for my work shoes — not that I’ll be walking in to Regent’s every day for much longer. But I’ll give my feet a break for a few days, much as I hate to, to see whether the fasciitis subsides.
Today Margaret and I head to Wolverhampton, where I’ll preach for the patronal of Fr Damian’s parish, The Most Holy Trinity, Ettingshall. I have a notion for the sermon, but after preaching (briefly) Thursday and (fully) yesterday, I feel as though I’m pressing my luck…
I got to walk some extra miles yesterday, dashing about point to point to connect with Marika Rose from Winchester, Anthony Reddie and Willie James Jennings here at Regent’s, and then Cory Doctorow at Blackwell’s. It was… a day of abundance, including a terrific conversation with a PG student who has developed the dangerous misapprehension that my research might be worth her attention.
This morning, weary legs, chilly air (6°), light overcast, two miles nonetheless. Tonight I’ll meet up with Steve and Melinda, who will have spent the afternoon with MArgaret while I was teaching.
The last two days have been similar: clear skies, chilly temps (6° and 7°), though this morning I had a bad case of heavy legs and a slower pace, while Sunday I was more limber and ran to a more favourable time. Another day, another two miles.
Saturday, I neglected to mention, Margaret and I had a leisurely breakfast with our griend from grad-school days, Willie James Jennings. Willie and I entered Duke in the same year, during years in which Duke admitted large groups of doctoral students. In contemporary terms, there’s much to criticise about that scheme, but it made for splendid, intoxicating debates and conversations in the grad lounge and in seminars. Stan Hauerwas’s premise was the we would learn best when we learned from one another, and that worked out pretty well. Willie and I were in the theology seminar for two years, in Ken Surin’s seminar once, and maybe another class I’m not remembering now (and I used to attend the theology grad seminar as well, though I was an interloper from biblical studies). In those days, American theology was in the beginning, perhaps the preparatory, stages of a range of changes: some convulsive, some evolutionary, some retrievals, but all with a sense of vigour and exhilarating range, and among the many who emerged from those years as prominent theologians on the US scene, I kept a watchful eye on Willie as a bellwether of the convergence of good, grounded sense and the expectation that a change was coming. We took part in some fascinating disagreements, some especially valuable sympathies.
When Margaret began her doctoral work fifteen years or so later, Willie was working in admin at Duke. In a field overcrowded with status and egos, he toiled with students to help them get through the various struggles with which seminary training confronts us. I imagine, though I haven’t pried into this, the intricate forms in which institutional and structural racism subtly permeated a wealthy university in the American South must have played a significant part of his role, and as is often the case, the administrative bearer of that burden was not so much appreciated for their negotiating fraught demands and injuries as they were neglected as the messenger with unwelcome news. It looked to us as though Willie didn’t get a chance to flourish as a theologian in his own right; for all the marvellous strengths Duke afforded to its students and staff, harmony and mutual respect did not rank highly enough (especially for women and scholars of colour). When I was a visiting professor there, we saw Willie from time to time, but he was always, always busy.
At that time, Willie had begun to attract attention as a leading figure in a new generation of Black theology; he and Jay Carter stood to represent a powerhouse of Black theology, and Duke was the place to study. For whatever reason — I’m not enough of an insider to give a well-sourced account, though I can make some plausible guesses — both Jay and Willie left Duke around 2010, so that instead of entering the twenty-first century with a staff poised to confront the recrudescence of white supremacist backwash with two front-line theological stars, Duke needed to scramble to salvage some measure of credibility with scholars who care about theology in ways not defined and limited by white scholarship. Willie moved to Yale Divinity School, where he’s understood and appreciated as the gentle, profound, critical theologian and mentor that he didn’t get a chance to be at Duke. He’s giving the Bampton Lectures here at Oxford — I’ll link to the first two below, and the he’ll deliver the second two tomorrow.
(I should add that Jay’s thriving at Indiana, and he has a new book coming out soon if it’s not already out, dealing with race and expression [my characterisation], a mode of religious study, practice, and resistance that emerges from colonial, captialist, and of course racist models for what ‘religion’ might be. I’m eager to read it.)
Anyway, here’s to Willie and the Bampton Lectures and Yale Div and collegial coffee and the future of Black theology!