The synthesis stage

Work on the third Sermon – now almost certainly titled One of Us – is progressing, approximately on schedule for completion this summer. I have a lot of stanzas, some of them strung together into sequences, a pretty good idea of what goes where, and am now working on synthesizing them into a prototype Secular Sermon that I can read to volunteers and ask for their impressions. This is a familiar part of the process. It involves puzzling pieces together, streamlining them into a narrative, and getting frequently distracted with the finer details of particular lines.

This is not the most difficult, but the most anxious part of the creation of a Secular Sermon. I’m too immersed in it to tell whether the text actually works as a meditation, and nobody else has heard it yet. Yet I’m acutely aware of the hundreds of hours of work I have already invested, and know from experience that much can go out the window if someone who has the benefit on an outside view finds serious problems that are invisible to me.

It feels a lot like software development, actually. Specifically, the end of the pre-alpha phase. I have many pieces of code written, they pass their unit tests, but the whole project hasn’t compiled and run yet and I completely lack any user feedback, months into development. Maybe I can apply some software development techniques to make this less stressful, and experiment with something like agile poem development?

In the meantime, I have continued to perform the Sermons live on various occasions. Three of these occasions had audiences with native English speakers: Garbicz Festival in Poland, the Hazel Hill retreat centre in England and the 2015 Secular Solstice in Germany. It seems appreciation of the Sermons is strongly positively correlated with English language comprehension. Obvious in retrospect, but it still took me a while to understand.

Still I have not found a native speaker of English who felt both willing and able to record themselves narrating the text. This is a bit unfortunate, since my own recordings are affected by my German accent. On the other hand, this only really becomes a problem once the Seven Sermons are complete, so I guess I have about another six years to find somebody.

I was happy to see the Blog of Baphomet give the second sermon and the PDF a very kind review and recently offered its own psychedelic meditation, which everybody who appreciates the Seven Secular Sermons is likely to enjoy.