November is a month pregnant with significance. It is the month of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month; when I tried it a few years back I finished a novel in three weeks). It is the start of the “Holiday Season” with Thanksgiving kicking off a slightly more relaxed schedule for businesses and students alike. Often the first day of Advent falls near the end of the month. In many places it has already provided the first snow of the season. For scholars of religion, however, November is the month of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. This year it will be held in San Diego, and will, no doubt, impact my blogging schedule somewhat. Being a creature of consistency, I try to upload my posts around 4:30 a.m. eastern time on weekdays, as I start pulling myself together for work. I’ll be three hours off for the latter part of this week, but if trips to California conform to any pattern, I may still find myself awaking at 1:30 wondering why the city is so quiet. California, here I come!
When I attended as a participant, I gave a paper nearly every year. Several of these papers were making their way toward a book that will never be published. Some produce content. Others only consume. Attending as a participant was kind of like a professional vacation—a few days off the usual teaching schedule, trying to find colleagues to catch up on, listening to papers. From the publishing perspective, it is a non-stop four-day weekend of work. As I see my colleagues on their way to late night receptions, I have to beg off. Tomorrow’s a working day for me. The exhibit halls open at eight, and I will have no idea what time it is in any case.
Ironically AAR/SBL is one of the things that has remained consistent in my professional life. It is almost a migratory feeling. I began attending in 1991, only missing the odd year here and there when something more important took its place. I was, however, never an insider. I chaired one of the sections for six years, but nobody ever contacted me suggesting we meet up. I could advance no one’s career. Now my calendar’s full. Now that I have something others want, suddenly I’m a commodity. Funny thing about a conference dedicated to disciplines associated with selflessness. As I pack my bags and make my plans to take care of details while I’m gone, my mind wanders to the purpose of it all. I used to dream that I would forget to visit the book stalls, and on the plane returning home I’d realize that I’d missed one of the most important parts of the show. That nightmare no longer plagues me. It is now the sole purpose for which I attend.