I have just returned from the 30th International Human Science Research Conference: Intertwining body-self-world (St Catherine's College, Oxford, 27th-30th July 2011).

It is difficult to encapsulate the experience in one word. It was so many things: interesting; challenging; scary; lonely; full of encounters; warm; thought-provoking; curious; confusing... I think that what it all means to me will unfold and change over the coming months, depending, perhaps, on what happens next and on what ideas and acquaintances will be deepened.

Under the curious heading must come the 'workshop' given by an American Dennis Rebelo, who tutors business entrepreneurs in creating a more effective personal story (and, most amazingly, gets paid for it!) He put up his first powerpoint slide with his title: 'Phenomenologically-Structured Storying for Threshold Moments in Life and Work'. What made me start and look again was that he had actually trade-marked the phrase: Threshold Moments. It came as a complete shock to me that you can trade-mark words, trade-mark a meaning. Is this even possible? What happens if I decide to use threshold and moments according to my own fashion? I wonder, even as I type this, whether I need his permission to put these two words together in a sentence.

Yes there were times during the conference when I felt out of place, a little lost. On the other hand, I was impressed by the other delegates' passion for their research within the human sciences, and also their capacity to hold onto a belief that what they are doing will somehow improve the world around them. That was comforting.