Friday, May 28, 2010

"Wow, that's so deep."

My brother works on log houses. I came to visit him in his hotel and made small talk with his boss, Frank, well he made some phone calls. His boss, on hearing that I am a philosophy major, responded in the way that many people respond.

"Quick, say something deep."

I was a bit caught off guard. I live philosophy. Not to say that I am particularly good at it, particularly dedicated or particularly clever, just that that is I cannot distinguish between thoughts that are deep and those that are everyday. So I responded with the everyday.

"Is there beer in the fridge?"

"Yes," replied my brother. He did not realise what I was about and assumed I wanted a drink, so he proceeded to recommend one over another, obviously uncomfortable at the notion of his baby sister drinking with the boys.

I bounced over to the fridge and opened it. There was in fact beer in the fridge. "Ah! ha! I have discovered truth." I grinned foolishly at Frank.

So what do people mean by deep? I suppose that the thing changes the way the world looks. Joggles up the senses. That is why I love philosophy. Things look different upside down and backwards.

What changes my life? Carnivorous tomatoes. The fact that picture on the right is cinnamon and on the left, the object I have believed to be cinnamon my entire life, is cassia. I've always wondered why cinnamon tastes slightly different then it ought to. I think my wondering this was simply happenstance, but still. I've been eating cassia my whole life without knowing it's name.

But when someone comments that something I think is 'deep' I feel cheap and commercial. This post I thought on before I wrote. I worked on it in my head. I considered what I could say. This post should be something deep, something meaningful. It is not. What is meaningful? A clever turn of phrase. A twist in the way of saying things. They do not mean the thoughts are deep but that they are witty. It is not wisdom I am sharing with them, but a joke. 'Getting' the joke they think they have encountered the universe.

 Why do I hold such disdain? Was I not once one of those people who found philosophy deep? Do I think think that it will offer me those further things I wish to learn about the world? Knowledge of the universe? Yes. But I also hated it. I never thought it was deep, simply perilous and shattering. I knew that I could lose who I was in it. I did lose who I was in it.

 When I was in grade ten I came up with the witty phrase 'perfection is a delusion of the mind.' I used it as my tagline on msn. Now I know that it means god does not exist, we can never attain our ideals, and perfectionism is unhealthy. Now I know I disagree. I disagreed then too, but did not say so. My perfectionist friend informed me a few years later that it had mattered to her, that being a perfectionist she struggled with and embraced that idea.

So some of the things said can have meaning, but not meaning that I intend which means, I suppose, that even if I do not think anything of what I say it should not bother me when others do.


Elisabeth said...

These days I think of philosophy as a way of thinking about how to live a good enough life, philosophy with a small p, and philosophy with a capital P - the more theoretical that helps inform us on ways to think about this.

It's unfortunate that so mamy people have prejudices against these pursuits because they are basic to life, but I think sometimes when people are intimidated by something they don't readily understand, they try to denigrate it. They try to make it so that you, the philosopher, are strange. You have a problem, they imply, to hide their ignorance perhaps.

It's sad because if they simply asked questions more they might understand better and feel less cynical and less of a need to put you down.

Jesse said...

It is, although I find when I am gentler with my ideas I receive a better reaction. When I realise that I might actually be a threat to how someone views the world I try to slow down, offer just a tiny bit of how the world could be, and make it clear that their way of looking at things is not entirely wrong. Just that, look, there is a little more beyond it.

Anonymous said...

Oh it's great to read a blogger with a genuinely fresh and keen philosophical mind.

I find philosophical thought very exciting. Too many people think of it as either worthy but boring or as pretentious affectation. For me it is a sincere passion; I am not claiming it is superior to any other subject of sincere passion.