While revising my family history, cousin Ben, history professor at Dublin University, invited me to a Zoom conference on “Temporal and Spiritual Journeys in Late Medieval Europe.”
This was to be my introduction to the use of Zoom. I had met Ben 10 years ago and found we had much in common, in particular family history.
The presenters list included Dr. Marianne Ritsema van Eck of Leiden University, Fr. Viliam Stefan Doci OP (Rome) and several other esteemed luminaries.
The program included sessions on ‘Franciscan Evangelists’, ‘Mendicant Reality’ and ‘Spiritual Direction’.
I thought this must be some Irish joke on Ben’s part, but he explained thus: in many fields it is popular to talk about globalism; however, referring to globalism within the distant past was untenable – e.g. by AD 1608, no new means of communication had been developed for Alpine journeys since the end of the Roman empire.
So, a letter still took two weeks to travel from Paris to Rome; people still had to depend on themselves and individual horsepower. Thus, applying the term globalism that far back is just laughable.
Conference day arrived – for me it was 3am. I had no idea what to expect. Five days earlier, I had had surgery and was still on Oxycodone.
I switched on at 3am and saw pictures of each attendee light up on my screen – except me! My camera wasn’t working.
I frantically switched it on and off – nothing. Audio was fine but no vision. I carried on regardless.
Ben introduced the two dozen attendees from universities all over Europe. I was the only participant from the Southern Hemisphere.
Each made a brief ‘hello’ and usually commented on their local weather. Ben introduced me as just “Denis Kelly from Brisbane Australia”.
I thanked Ben, apologised for the lack of video, and went on to describe the weather – in contrast to Europe with storms and violent winds, Brisbane was a balmy 25 degrees. Ben opened the conference.
I tried to listen but the combination of the early hour with the Oxycodone drove me back to bed – so I quietly left the website.
I regret that I never got to learn about globalism and medieval journeys. I never got to know anything about the conference as the Oxycodone worked well and I slept, missing the whole show.
Later, I let Ben know how much I appreciated the invitation.
I didn’t let on that I had missed everything or that my first Zoom conference was an abject failure or that my first foray into ‘academe’ had fallen at the first fence.
However, on the positive side, how many people in the Redlands knew that it was raining in Heidelberg?