Well, now: THAT was interesting

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.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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7 Responses to Well, now: THAT was interesting

  1. Sheesh. Glad you’re okay and didn’t hurt yourself. (Note to self: next time you feel embarrassed, make sure you’re not operating heavy machinery.)


  2. Rob says:

    Yes, good to hear you’re okay, and I hope the visit to the doc clears up any warrant for further concern.

    Looking forward to hearing, some time, those philosophical reasons for the kind of extemporizing performance you prefer.

    I recall Millgram’s interesting, though to my mind not fully convincing, reading of GM, with an emphasis on its performative features, a few years ago:


  3. robsica says:

    Not sure that link worked, but here’s the citation:
    Who Was Nietzsche’s Genealogist? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 75(1): 92-110. July 2007


  4. sohrab says:

    Glad to hear you are okay and hope all is well.


  5. Kleiner says:

    Goodness sake, Charlie! Glad to hear you are okay! And I am glad the UofU philosophers sprang into action. That might have been a dangerous thing to faint in a room of philosophers — had they, before acting, first felt compelled to discuss the proper interpretation of the event, argued about what caused the faint (a discussion which could have quickly become sidetracked by a debate on causation in general), etc etc.

    Can you spin this as purposeful? Is THAT how you show the defeat the “sanctimonious snivelers” or show how Nz can both offer advice and attack advice-givers?

    I would also like to hear your philosophical reasons for the off-the-cuff style presentation. I’ve actually been thinking of the same thing lately. Our conferences can be so boring, I suspect we bore our colleagues in ways we would never bore our students. I’ve not used lecture notes in class (much less stood up there and read something) for years now, and I think it comes off much more dynamic and interesting. But that is more of an “aesthetic” point, I get the sense that you have different reasons.


  6. Rob says:

    Maybe this incident is some kind of sympathetic-somatic culmination of all that intensive philosophical-biographical study of Nietzsche? ;>


  7. Pingback: Well, I made it « Huenemanniac

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