The Pilgrimage
1. The Conference Bubble
2. Resuscitation
3. Barter
4. Capacity

Travel Portrait #35
The Pilgrimage: The Conference Bubble
Sunday, January 13, 2013

Y2K--the majority of the American public were completely enraptured by, in shock of the looming Twenty-first Century technologies--the change that was burgeoning in their every day life at home, and at work. Desktop computers and electronic gadgets would not begin to replace the time-honored methods of communication, information sharing, the ways of doing business, and personal/private record keeping. So was the groupthink of the Unfathomable Society, counter arguing the Early Adopters and true believers who requested more from the digital gurus.

So was the making of his accepted premise for a workshop to be held at the Seventh Conference of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas (ISSEI), which was to be held in Bergen, Norway. The conference theme was "Approaching a New Millennium: Lessons from the Past--Prospects for the Future." The title of his workshop was Future Shock Revisited: Europe Facing the New Millennium. He, a Generation X American, thought to keep the topic focused on the geographic region; however, his intentions were designed for a much larger scale. The workshop description read as follows:

Future Shock Revisited: Europe Facing the New Millennium

In his book Future Shock (1970), Alvin Toffler defines future shock [a]s a time phenomenon, a product of the greatly accelerated rate of change in society. It arises from the superimposition of a new culture or an older one (p. 11). It occurs when individual[s are] forced to operate above [their] adaptive range (p. 344). We are forcing them to process information at a far more rapid pace than was necessary in slowly-evolving societies... What consequences this may have for mental health in the techno-societies has yet to be determined (p. 355). [O]ne widespread response to high-speed change is outright denial. The Denier's strategy is to "block out" unwelcome reality... A second strategy of the future shock victim is specialism. The Specialist doesn't block out all novel ideas or information. Instead, he energetically attempts to keep pace with change--but only in a specific narrow sector of life... A third common response to future shock is obsessive reversion to previously successful adaptive routines that are now irrelevant and inappropriate... Finally, we have the Super-Simplifier, [who] invests every idea he comes across with universal relevance... He trades a host of painful and seemingly insoluble troubles for one big problem, thus radically, if temporarily, simplifying existence (p. 359-361). [T]he future shock victim who does employ these strategies experiences a deepening sense of confusion and uncertainty. Caught in the turbulent flow of change, called upon to make significant, rapid-fire life decisions, he feels not simply intellectual bewilderment, but disorientation at the level of personal values (p. 363). Social rationality presupposes individual rationality, and this, in turn, depends not only on certain biological equipment, but on continuity, order and regularity in the environment. It is premised on some correlation between the pace and complexity of change and man's decisional capacities (p. 366).

This workshop would like to revisit the future shock theme by discussing those psychological factors that will impact Europeans as the European Union and the respective nation-states attempt to establish it's own form of tradition, philosophy and democracy during this Digital and Global Age.

His hopes were to approach Routledge for a book deal, of which he would be the editor of the essays collected from the conference proceedings. Several top professors from various universities had submitted an abstract. He, too, had written a new essay.

He, an Independent Scholar, was not affiliated with a university. He had been going to international conferences since 1994 (the 4th ISSEI: Gratz, Austria) and in 1996 (the 5th ISSEI: Utrecht, Netherlands). He was fortunate to attend the first Crossroads in Cultural Studies conference in Tampere, Finland, that July. Each of those conferences he paid the fees out of pocket, traveling during his vacation. However, for his trip to Bergen, he would need the consent of his wife, who had been aware of his colloquium travels while they were dating. Now married, he thought best to discuss with her the plan. Before they were married, he returned to Finland with her for the second Crossroads (1998), and tacked on a bus trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, as arranged by the conference planners. She had studied Russian in high school and always dreamed of visiting and speaking the language. The two split the expenses of the trip.

However, traveling to Norway, alone, would be an expense that needed justification--especially as a would-be father. Being that he was not an Academian, there was no practical reasoning that the conference would be good for his career. His job was working as a Information Architect for a start-up e-business solutions consulting firm. His wife understood that this would be his last foray before parenthood. This unnerved him slightly; he loved her support, yet he was not certain if this counted as a joint effort--more so as an act of selfishness. Besides, he remembered back in '98 when he spent ten minutes riffing from the audience during the final plenary session Q&A, concerning what he called the Apollonian and Dionysian Portrayals of Homosexuality in the Films "Philadelphia" and "Silence of the Lambs." His riff was in response to the the speakers call for gay normalcy in American film, singularly citing Philadelphia as an extreme characterization of a typical gay male. Discounting the speakers one-sided view for leaving out 'the rest of the story', his riff was a reminder for the need to set normalcy between two extremes, citing the Gay Community's outcry in regards to the 'portrayal' in Silence of the Lambs. When he asked for a response, the speaker replied, "Well, the difference in normalcy, in terms of the relevancy between my presentation and your ranting paracriticism, is that I have a degree, and you do not!"

While he did think of himself as an Academian, he was assured, during the trip to St. Petersburg by his companions who were at the plenary, that a good number of the professors in the auditorium considered him to be more of a 'Macadamian'--albeit an erudite one.

In retrospect, he confessed to his wife that chairing a workshop was an ego trip. She, being good-natured, indulged his fancy, and let him live in his bubble (head) for the time being.

That evening, weeks later, the phone rang. He answered, "Hello..."

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