This post is on a personal note and will be a bit self-indulgent, so if you’re looking for some information about the history or literature of early Christianity, this won’t the right time or place.
As many of you know from earlier blog posts, I was supposed to go off on a research trip to Greece (Athens), Egypt (Alexandria), and Italy (Rome), in connection with my work on my current project, The Triumph of Christianity (or whatever we call it) dealing with the Christianization of the Roman Empire. My idea was to go to these places to see formerly “pagan” sites that were lost, changed, “converted” or destroyed by Christians in the fourth and later centuries (e.g., destroyed temples; shrines converted into churches; and so on). I was supposed to go today. But I have had to cancel the trip.
Yesterday while starting to do some preliminary packing I bent over to pick up a bag of books, and my back went out. Bad. Not “Call-911-and-the-Morgue” bad, but bad enough. I had done something similar last summer, and it wasn’t pretty. Last July I spent days in bed unable to get up without some rather, well, intense physical sensations. Many of you have probably had this little bit of fun yourselves; and I’m sure all of you have had other jolly problems that are/were much worse. In any event, yesterday after the bending incident I could still straighten up (painfully; but it was doable) and move about, and so I thought that maybe if I got some immediate attention, I’d be OK.
I went off to the Urgent Care unit nearby, had someone there check me out, and got prescriptions for some serious drugs. I’m a big believer in the miracle of medication. And I thought that I’d dodged a bullet. But no, in the middle of the night, last night, out of nowhere, my back seized up (I woke up with, let’s say, remarkable clarity). So it’s not as bad as last summer, but the chances of my surviving an overnight plane ride to Athens without being sent into paroxysms of exquisite pain are about the same as my getting a position as first violinist for the London Philharmonic.
So I have had to cancel the trip. I’m pretty bummed, as you might imagine.
But I’m not pretending that this is some kind of cosmic catastrophe that should make me question the meaning of life or the sense of all existence. We’re not talking about a theodicy-inducing moment here. We’re talking about not doing something that 99.99% of the human race would never be able to do for other reasons. That’s not going to keep me from feeling disappointed, but I’m not going to have to rethink my views of the nature of reality because I couldn’t go on a research jaunt. And I want to use this as an opportunity to think that there really are people who do have genuine hard times right now.
Moreover, as I am wont to do, I am going to use the (lost) opportunity for something else to see what good can come of it. One good is quite obvious to me. Because of my busy schedule (most of it traveling) (so how upset can I be if a trip gets cancelled??) for this entire calendar year I was not going to have had any solid two-week period to work on my book and do nothing but work on the book. Really. You’d think as a university professor with at a major university, I would have nothing but time to do my research. Right? Wrong?
With my day job (they do like me to teach at the university; university administrations can be a bit funny that way) (and in addition to teaching there are committees, and other meetings, and students to see, and graduate students to direct, and dissertations to advise, and lots of other things), my speaking gigs (this next academic year, the vast majority of weeks I’m on the road to give a talk one place or another), my family obligations (most of which are sheer pleasure! But that doesn’t hide the fact that they are obligations as well), and so forth and so on – I simply did not have a single two-weeks stretch at home to do my research and writing
Like many of you, I need more hours in the day and more days in the week! Way more. I’ve often thought we should figure out a way to set up a time-exchange, where people who are not busy but are bored and have nothing to do with themselves could trade out a few hours with those of us who simply can’t squeeze everything in, no matter how organized and efficient we are.
In any event, back to my point: I will now have two full weeks that previously had been unaccounted for (well, except for a trip overseas that just got cancelled). And I’m going to use them to have two weeks with nothing to do but think about and work on my book. That will be an unexpected luxury – my only solid two-week stretch all year. So that part’s good.
Still it’s a bit of a bummer. And it changes my blog plans. My idea had been to talk on the blog each day about some of the sites I had been seeing. That would have been fun and different. But it ain’t gonna happen. But other things will happen, and in the end, it’ll all be good….