God help me! I have to learn how to teach a college course online. It’s a whole new venture for a professor of a certain age. Oh, but I have an idea: I’ll create an audiovisual recording of myself to introduce each new topic and another one to wrap it all up at the end. But there’s an obstacle – I’m a little camera-shy.
And as it turns out, I’m a lot Screencast-O-Matic-shy. Having downloaded the software and learned how to use it – it’s now late at night – I’m confronted with and confounded by my own unruly image. I see that I’m standing in the need of a haircut, especially since the webcam highlights the top of my head. I can’t get centered and since the screen image moves in the opposite direction from my moves I get dizzy in the attempt. And how is it that the webcam image brings out every splotch, blotch, and blemish on my squirming epidermis?
All right, Dr. Frear, you knew you were no Helen of Troy. Just loosen up and play with the thing. Mug, wink, and smirk. Sing karaoke. Recite “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Blow bubble gum.
Egad. Even worse. The webcam captures every squint and scrunch, every droop of lid and lip, each twitch of nose and brow. A little gaucherie in the classroom is one thing, but these are captured on an all-too-candid camera and recorded for posterity. Any grotesquerie can always be discarded and the sequence re-recorded, of course, but how many repetitions before my performance would be twitch-free?
How long, Oh Lord?
It came to me then to sing a few hymns. After a stray verse or two I settled into a childhood favorite, “Fairest Lord Jesus.” The words came without effort.
Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son;
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.
I am again kneeling in the warm wooden pew of the church of my childhood. The simple Silesian melody soothes me and the lovely images glow again in my mind’s eye as I sing the second verse.
Fair are the meadows, Fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.
I share the poet’s preferences. The last verse is my favorite.
Fair is the sunshine, Fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling, starry host:
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels heav’n can boast.
By the time I have finished the third verse I am calm. Calmer too is my Screencast-O-Matic image. The squints and twitches have evaporated. The hair is merely tussled. Oddly, even my complexion is no longer mottled.
Having sung, I saved a brief concluding statement for myself. Here it is, together with transcript for the hearing-impaired.
Transcript: “Okay, so I’ve learned that I look much better and sound much better when I’m praying, and when I’m not self-conscious. Amen.”
It may be the most important lesson I have learned all year.