I was at the U of Utah yesterday, and had a great time in a number of activities. I visited my friend Mariam’s class, and we debated whether the evolutionary account of religious inclinations should cause a believer to doubt. Then I had lunch with six engaging grad students, and visited Elijah Millgram’s Nietzsche class, in which he gave a “walk-through” presentation of how to write a philosophy paper. (I could use two or three more of those.)
Then I was to give a colloquium paper. The room was packed, maybe 50 people, and a little warm. I have a lot of friends in that department, but I was still feeling a bit nervous. Normally philosophers read papers to audiences, or have some sort of organized Powerpoint presentation, or an outline on a handout, but I was trying something different: I wanted to just explain what I think I know, with only some texts along with me for supportive quotes. That might sound easy — just say what you know! — but when you get in front of a group, there’s a decent chance your mind will go blank, you’ll panic, and then train wreck ensues. Still, I’ve done it before, and do it in class all the time, so I had some reason to think I could pull it off. (Moreover, I have philosophical reasons to recommend this sort of performance — I’ll blog about that another time.) But I was a bit worried about keeping my mind ordered and relaxed; and being worried about not being relaxed enough is something of a self-fulfilling worry.
Everything began okay. I started by framing the problem, and began to chew away at the solution. But I was feeling really hot. I thought, “I’ll bet I’m blushing! How embarrassing! Just stick to the ideas; you’ll be okay.” But I still felt really hot. Really hot. So I stopped my presentation and asked the audience, “Is anyone else hot in here? I feel like my face is turning red.” They said the room was warm, but I looked fine. So I asked for a glass of water and tried to continue. But my mind was getting fuzzy, and then my ears started to tune out, and the next thing I experienced was my friends gently lowering me down to the floor and explaining that I had passed out!
That’s a first.
I was impressed by how the Philosophy department sprang into action. They elevated my feet, put a jacket under my head, and called 911. I felt fine almost immediately, and passed all the EMT’s tests — good blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar, EKG. I even seemed coherent, which is rare. I will go to a doc to rule out anything more troubling, but I’m betting it was just “some damn thing” — overdetermination of heat, worry, and the drugs they slipped into my tea. (No.)
I was taken to dinner afterwards and enjoyed good and fun conversations, and drove home to Logan just fine. I’m always glad to give a memorable performance.