Friday, November 30, 2012

a thanksgiving to remember - I

After much consideration and number crunching, my wife and I decided to journey out east over this Thanksgiving week.

Our first stop was Chicago to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. Members of these academic guilds get together annually to exchange notes, forge new research terrain, network for future collaborations, and interview for teaching positions. At any given time, there were about fifty concurrent sessions. Add to this the thousands of attendees crisscrossing the convention center’s three buildings to attend the session of their choosing—one cannot but liken the scene to that of a high-falutin meat market.

Choosing which session to attend had to be very calculated; which is exactly what got me to sit in on a session on “Exploring Embodiment in Sacred Asian Spaces.” The Chair of the search committee for a position I applied to was presenting a paper and I thought I needed to grovel at his feet! I threw out two questions, waxed philosophical about Zorba the Buddha (his reference to Osho/Rajneesh), and caught up with him on the escalator hoping to score a few extra points. My shameless ingratiating gestures had to be cut short only because my panel was about to start within the next ten minutes. I have no idea if the call for interview will come.

For the nerds, I had never really grappled with social theory and sociological theory minutiae. At another panel, the group set up clear demarcations between the two. Social theory is innately European in provenance heavily dependent on the French. Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, and so on are prime exemplars of social theory betraying very specific cultural and intellectual formations. Sociological theory, on the other hand, is very grounded and earthy theory. The idea was not that the two theories were mutually exclusive but that, in their application to the study of religion, one needs to spell out their differences in the interest of methodological considerations.

Chicago was rather different in that being in the heart of the downtown area a rather new experience for us. Suburban life has the tendency to habituate you to a quieter and lazier pace. So it was rather jarring to be woken up by the noise of a jack-hammer and other heavy machinery.

Even the sidewalks were a lot denser, the crosswalks more jammed, and the urban noise so much louder. Buses and trains were more frequent (and more convenient) but also more crowded.

From Chicago, we headed toward Washington DC to spend Thanksgiving with a friend. No names will be dropped but he is quite popular in the online world of the Mizos. In fact, we butted heads on a couple of times as our positions on various issues were extremely different. Anyhoo, our host and his family couldn’t have been more ideal: the welcome so warming, delectable home-cooked food, the libations flowing (!), and the formalities to a minimum. If one has or were to visit the DC-Maryland area, you’ll have an estimate about the number of Mizos living in the area and the pressure hanging over to have to try and visit as many, if not each, of the families. Our host's daughter became a very close friend; my wife and I continue to long fondly for her. Our Thanksgiving was a welcome change from the traditional turkey fare. Baby ribs and fried quail are definitely way better than the sopoforic tryptophan-laced and bland turkey! Thanks H, T, and J. 
O, there's something about us folks that we tend to know too much about each other but also use that to diss each other very subtly. I will not elaborate further but am always reminded of what my dad used to tell me: if you don't have anything nice to say about a person, just stay silent! But that's not the note i want to round off on.
Before I get back to size the hole that the last ten days made on my wallet, we are grateful for journey mercies and the friends and relatives who helped make our trip so difficult to want it to come to an end. Thank you, if you are reading this.