Saturday, June 17, 2006
Prepared for UUA.org by Doug Muder
General Assembly actually starts the day your program arrives in the mail. Mine arrived weeks ago, and I've been paging through it ever since, circling everything that looks interesting, and not worrying a whole lot about the limitations of the space/time continuum. There's some kind of psychological law at work here, and if no one else has named it yet I may try to claim it myself: Any day sufficiently far in the future seems to contain infinite time.
In reality, GA is five days long and has ten program sessions, some of which run concurrently. In addition, there are five plenary sessions that transact the business of the denomination, including the social and political issues we're going to take a collective stand on. (I'm not a delegate from my congregation, but that doesn't prevent me from getting in the door if I care to.) There are a number of big events, like the Ware Lecture (given by Mary Oliver this year), the Service of the Living Tradition, and the evening entertainment. And it's always fascinating to wander around the Exhibit Hall.
And that's just the official stuff. UU's from all over the country are converging, which means it's a rare opportunity for people of common interests to get together. I want to go to the reception for UU bloggers on Wednesday, and my checkered past has me on the lookout for both UU-Pagan and UU-Humanist events. Some of my friends from other parts of the country will be at GA, and I'll want to get together with them. They may want to introduce me to some other people, and I'll want to find time to get acquainted. I know a lot of UU's from the internet, by name and not by face, so I'll be scanning name tags hoping to find some old friend that I've never met.
And that's just UU stuff. There's also St. Louis. It may not be Paris, but it's a fine old city with a lot to see. I should know; I grew up about 120 miles upriver in Quincy, Illinois—a Mississippi River port that sits between Mark Twain's Hannibal and Joseph Smith's Nauvoo. (Returning to St. Louis is actually making me feel old. It's the 40th anniversary year of the Gateway Arch; I saw it the first year, when I was nine. This is also the first season of the Cardinals' new baseball park; I remember when the previous park was new.) I'm spending the weekend before GA visiting my parents, and I plan to escape from GA for an evening to have dinner with a high school buddy who lives in a St. Louis suburb now.
And everybody else is going to be just as overbooked as I am, so I want to be a calming influence. UUism shouldn't be about racing around madly, like movie characters on fast-forward. I want to savor the day. I want to taste my coffee. I want to be the kind of person who says, "No, I mean it. How are you really?"
So that's my plan. I'm going to be calm and well-rested, grounded and centered. I'm going to see everything, talk to everybody, and write about most of it.
Why not? I don't arrive in St. Louis until Tuesday. Five days seems like an infinite amount of time