I had a great time at the annual meetings this year.
I heard some very fine papers, for example, one by Eric Cline announcing the end of Finkelstein’s low chronology; another by Cheryl Exum in which she masterfully described what we know and do not know about the author of Song of Songs; another by Chris Seitz on the sensus literalis and figural interpretation.
What I like most about the meetings is the chance to catch up with colleagues and make new friends and have new experiences. Per my usual pattern, I enjoyed going native and staying outside of the tourist district, not in a hotel. San Francisco is a feast to the senses. Besides all the beautiful people walking around, there are billboards everywhere with giant-size representations of Steve Jobs, and a Starbucks on every corner. It's a kind of alternative reality.
I will always remember the view of the bay from the Davis St. condo I slept in one night; the portion of an Oakland cannery redecorated as a fabulous apartment I ate in one evening with beloved friends; the hills I climbed to get to the 22nd St. apartment I shared with a delightful family.
I won’t forget two Orthodox priests, Romanian by heritage, whose love of life and learning is immense. One of them was very good at telling serious jokes, if you know the genre. Here is one he told, better, I think, than the joke’s creator, Stephen Colbert (go here). My retelling revises and abridges the version I heard.
A guy commits suicide. And he goes to heaven, which is not what he expected.
God greets him there, and the guy says, "I'm so surprised I'm here. First of all, I thought there was no God. Second of all, I thought if you killed yourself, you know, you were damned forever."
God replies, “I admit it often seems I’m not around. It's not the people who don't think I exist who worry me; it's the ones who think I do and are convinced that their wishes and my wishes are identical.”
"As for suicide, you know, it’s complicated. You have to take into account things like depression and jilted love. Everybody at least thinks about ending it, you know, about killing themselves at some point."
And God adds, "Even I've thought of it."
The guy says, "Can I ask, why didn't you do it?"
And God says, "What if this is all there is?"