The first two Sermons in this tale
have just been to prepare
this third one here, where we unveil
the gift of life we share…
The third Sermon is finished, giving me a complex mix of feelings of elation, relief and yearning for more. I am indebted to the friends who gave me critical feedback for it, especially Laila, Kami, Nikki, Viva and Raymond. Thank you a lot! Overall, this Sermon was much easier to write than the second one, as expected, because it tells a more relatable part of the story… but the extra challenge of finishing it in a single year compensated nicely for the reduced difficulty.
Now everything is changing: In a few weeks, my daughter will be born! How amazing is that! Looking forward to it, in this calm before the storm, my anticipation and excitement naturally inspire the process of starting on the fourth Sermon. Of course during the next few months, I will find very little (if any) time to write poetry. But the topic of the fourth Sermon lends itself quite nicely to description by someone very busy with loving care.
The Less Wrong European Community Weekend was fantastic, and the premiere of the third Sermon did work out well. Less Wrong (and friends) is a very remarkable community of highly intelligent, very open, deeply conscientious individuals, with a culture of communication I have never seen surpassed or even equaled anywhere else. I was delighted by the amount of assistance I received from many in attendance, setting up the space for it and so forth. I estimate the audience was about 60 people, which makes this the largest one yet, and it included a personal hero of mine, professor Robin Hanson, who also gave the keynote of the meeting.
As in the beta version tryout before, I found two friends to read the first two Sermons. The main reason for this is that reading several Sermons in succession aloud becomes exhausting quickly. Reading poetry is just much harder than reading prose, because you have to hit the rhythm and prosody with great and sustained precision. Although I obviously know the Sermons better than any other text, I find reading just two of them (with the focus they deserve) to be more taxing than reading from a novel for two hours straight. And of course I’m very curious how others will interpret the text, and encourage them to read it differently from how I would.
Both times, however, some of the listeners who described their experience later told me that they liked one speaker much better than the other, to the point where they found it hard to follow part of the story. In both cases, there was no consensus on who was better, so it seems to be a matter of taste. Either way, the change of speakers clearly distracts from the meditation more than I had hoped. I guess I’ll try and go back to doing it all by myself, but add breaks of a minute or two of silence between Sermons, so I can catch my breath and drink some water. This might be good for listeners too; the whole thing is getting quite long now, so a moment to digest, stretch and enjoy the silence might be welcome. I guess I’m slowly working my way towards a refined form of presentation.
Whenever I find the time in parenthood, I intend to produce an audio recording of the first three Sermons, with better audio quality than in the existing videos. I don’t think filming another video should have priority at this point.
So I proceed to the heart of the Sermons. The first three are the more physical ones, the last three will be the more mental ones, although of course part of the point is that all mental phenomena are physical phenomena and all physical phenomena are only observable as mental ones. But either way, the Sermon in the middle ties them together and gives all of them their purpose. This Sermon will be less straightforward that the third, because like any center, it can be approached from many directions and there isn’t an obviously superior sequence for the various themes involved. I’ll give myself time to figure this out, even though I continue to aim to complete the Seven Secular Sermons by the year 2022.