I am in Montreal for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion on behalf of my company, HarperOne (represent!). Montreal is a beautiful city, but the people in Canada are delusional, stubbornly holding onto the old myth that this is an independent nation. The people in Montreal go even further—many of them insist on speaking French, a language that was outlawed under provisions of the Homeland Security Act by George Bush II. I was watching game six of the World Series and the French-speaking announcers sounded as if they were constantly swearing in disgust. Maybe they, too, don’t like the New York Yankees.
However, I come not to bury Canada, but to praise it—and especially Air Canada. On my flight here I committed a basic traveling sin—I showed up at San Francisco International Airport fifty minutes before my flight was scheduled to take off. Actually, that’s not true. That was what I thought the situation was as I ran up to the Air Canada station. The woman at the counter asked me where I was headed, and when I told her Montreal, she told me the flight was closed. You see, not only was I running late, but I had misread the ticket—the flight was leaving twenty minutes earlier than I thought, which meant I was still outside of security with a bag that needed checking just thirty minutes before flight time.
Okay, I know, I blew it. But the Air Canada people didn’t: they stepped up and got me and my bag on that flight with no time left to spare. I had a connecting flight in Toronto and somehow managed to lose my ticket for the second leg (it wasn’t my day)—again, the Air Canada people took care of me. Not only that, they were gracious in a situation where they could have easily made me feel like an idiot.
Now that I am here in Montreal I am planning on enjoying this northern jewel of a city, if time allows. The thing is, I am here for a book convention, and conventions are inherently insane. Everyone blathers at everyone else all day long and then we meet at night for some more social blathering. For the next five days I will be spending all my time talking to some of the world’s top religion scholars. These are people who know more about the world’s religions than is really healthy. They have symposiums with names like “The Legacy of Wilfred Cantwell Smith,” “Pagan Studies Reception,” and “Animals and Religion Consultation.” Many of these professors are the authors of books and papers, but they haven’t yet mastered the art of the snappy title. Here are a couple of offerings: The Odd Couple: Mère Catherine de Saint-Augustine, Jean de Brébeuf, and the Gendering of Expiatory Suffering in Early Modern Québec, and Image-bearing Cyborgs? Hybridity and Hope in the Landscapes of Transhumanism.
One group describes their session this way: “How does scripture give itself? What would it mean to treat scripture as a phenomenon? Is anything lost by thinking of scripture as an historical or literary object? This panel will explore the possibility of a phenomenological approach to scripture. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend.” You bet I will. On the other hand, some are too snappy: the Art/s of Interpretation Group is having a meeting called, simply, Anteriority. Huh? Maybe I will show up and argue for exteriority. They even have a Wildcard Session here. The theme? Priestly and Lay Dimensions of Zoroastrianism. Yo—what happens at AAR stays at AAR.
I’ll let you know what I learn—that is, if I don’t lose my room key.