Portsmouth Institute Second Annual Conference, Newman and the Intellectual Tradition, Day One
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since I attended and covered the first annual conference of the Portsmouth Institute of the Portsmouth Abbey School in (you guessed it) Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
I’ll admit that, as much as I’ve looked forward to this event, the disruption of my habits and quotidian obligations creates an unavoidable drag. Little wonder that, in modern times, we gravitate toward convenient entertainments and consume materials for entertainment and edification in portionable bites. But the act of stepping away from daily life and the atmosphere in which content is consumed is as important as the content itself.
Which raises a theme on which I’ve touched, before, including with reference to last year’s Portsmouth Institute conference: There’s sort of subterranean stream that courses through life that one can tap by multiple means, and its sensation over the fingers and taste on the lips will differ depending on the point and method of access. Religious life is one route. Wealth can be (but is not necessarily) another. I suppose, to gelatinate the thought into a word, I’m referring to freedom, but not so much freedom of action, in the recognizably American sense, but freedom from the existential stresses of life. More familiar methods of relaxation offer but a fleeting shadow of the blessing that comes with an understanding, through faith, that, come what may, the trials of the day cannot touch the soul or, through wealth, that economic fluctuations cannot be so substantial as to leave one destitute.
As I type, between lectures that I’ll describe subsequently, it occurs to me that the value of such locations as this campus to the general public is the representation of safety — the evidence of order protected from immediate deterioration (as distinct from immediate destruction, which our universe leaves as an inevitable possibility).
But here I’m trying to describe in real time a thought that will take years and multiple iterations to express and the second lecture is about to begin.