And then this happened…more on the inaugural NOVITĀTE conference


I’m late telling Book Haven readers about my most recent honor: From Luke Burgis’s remarks at the inaugural NOVITĀTE conference earlier this month, in presenting me with the inaugural Novitāte Award:

This first ever NOVITĀTE award goes to someone whose work embodies “New Models of Thought and Desire”, which this gathering is all about. She has carved her own (anti-mimetic) path inside and outside the world of academia, oftentimes while standing at the periphery—which is where the misunderstood, and sometimes even the scapegoats, lie. 

Cynthia’s work has been not only intellectually illuminating for me personally—I couldn’t have written my own book, Wanting, without it—but also edifying. 

This award may not be prestigious—yet!—and it comes with a relatively paltry cash prize of $1,000 (we’ll work on that, too!)—but you are the first recipient, and the most worthy that I could think of. I’d like to invite you to the stage to accept this First Annual NOVITĀTE Award for making an outstanding contribution to this year’s theme. Please join me honoring the 2023 award winner: Cynthia Haven.

Cynthia, you are a special person who I’m proud to call a friend. This event would not have been the same without you. You’ve done so much good work for so many years. Nearly every time we talk you remind me of what it’s all truly about. Our time on this earth is very short. As René Girard reminded us ( and as you often remind me), we don’t know how much time we have left. None of us do. You’ve inspired me with a sense of urgency—with a quickening of heart and spirit. And for that I want to thank you. 

Postscript: I almost forgot to include my own brief comments on acceptance of the award: “When Luke first told me about his idea for a conference, I didn’t connect its title, Novitāte, to Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” These words have been a touchstone for me over the years. What I came to understand is this: We can’t change the past, we can’t change our height or our parentage. We can’t change our emotions, at least not directly, because they happen at lightning speed and shapeshift as they move. We certainly can’t change other people – we’ve all tried that. But the one thing we can change the way we think about things – that is in our power. We can rewire our brains a little, and interrupt cycles of envy or resentment or retaliation by shifting our perspective, unsettling our mind a bit. It’s something that can begin now, tonight, and continue for the rest of our days. This week has given us a toolkit for doing so – we can begin renewing our minds now. That may be the best way to commemorate René’s centenary year. I’m deeply honored by this award. Thank you, Luke. Thank you everyone. And most of all, thank you René, and happy birthday.”


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