I got to Kéan. Italian Cappuccino. In a brown cup that I want to call neither a cup nor a mug. Mug sounds American; this cup seems Italian. It’s smaller than a mug.
I sit. One of the tables along the window. So I could face the people in line. The line is always very long at Kéan.
I write. Then I watch them. Then I write.
I have this thought: Each person is like a movie.
My life is a movie. So is yours.
Then I have this thought. Some people believe in free will. They believe we can direct our own movie, in the same way Steven Spielberg directed Jaws.
I think they are wrong.
Because things happen to us, along the way, during the film. Stuff we can’t control.
So our movies — to a certain extent — are written by outside events. If you have doubts, think about something that happenedto you. You didn’t choose your parents. You didn’t choose where you grew up. You didn’t choose your health, or that of your loved ones. And you didn’t choose your age or your height or your complexion or your body shape. But these are all part of your movie.
Yeah, I know, we can choose how we respond.
And sometimes we just react to events without even thinking. We yell at our kids. And those who think we can choose how we respond, every single time — in the same way we choose from a restaurant menu — are guilty of oversimplification.
Firemen. Two of them. In line. Two thirty-something men with the fluorescent yellow stripes on their baggy mustard colored pants. The pants with kneepads. With their names in fluorescent letters on the leg. All caps. KIM. MCCART. And walkie talkies.
We respect firemen. People who save people.
And then little girl ballerina in her little pink tutu and her bear and her and mommy reaching for her hand as they rush out the door.
I’m not a welder but I’m convinced that philosophy is far more dangerous. I know because I am a trained philosopher with two philosophy degrees. Bachelors and Masters — 5 of my 7 years of formal education reading Aristotle and Kant and Russell and Kripke and learning about “things” like causation and deontology and the
metaphysics of modality. All of this formal study in philosophy happened after I turned 30, when I became increasingly aware of how little I really knew.
Marco Rubio thinks I should have studied welding instead. Last week during the debate, he took a shot at us philosophers:
“Welders make more money than philosophers,” the Florida senator said, making the case for an expansion in vocational training. “We need more welders and less philosophers.”
Of course it was a stupid thing to say. Many do a degree in philosophy and go do other stuff: George Soros, Steve Martin, Carly Fiorina, Phil Jackson, Peter Their (Paypal co-founder).
Some like me just like to think deeply about stuff that matters.
But I get why Rubio made the dig about philosophy.
First, it’s easier to think that working with your hands is real work, and working with your mind isn’t. “Real men work with their hands.” (If you’re one of those macho guys, I dare you to try writing an article like this one. I’d rather go dig a hole any day. Way easier.)
Second, our society is addicted to safety. And philosophy is dangerous. Far more dangerous than welding. Rubio’s a pragmatist. Play it safe. Get a job. Make money. And be careful not to think too much.
Third, nobody really gets philosophy. They don’t know what it even is. Just the word philosophy makes them confused. But everybody gets welding. You melt metal. You get paid for it. If you say you’re a welder or accountant nobody gets that awkward look. And if you say your hobbies are dirt bike riding or surfing or scrapbooking, it’s all good. But if tell someone your hobby is philosophy, most don’t know what to say next. Trust me, I know.
Fourth, Senator Rubio didn’t compare welding with other college majors. He didn’t mock those pursing business or computer science or nursing or biology or law — degrees with an specific end in mind. That’s because education today is seen merely as a means to an end — something you hustle through with your good grades and good test scores and “top universities” so that you can finally get into the “real world” and get a job and make money.
It’s the parents who are to blame for doing this to their kids.
Finally, we live in an anti-intellectual society today. So a major that is just about knowing and thinking and truth seems absurd. Our education system over the past 50 years has shifted. How many students do you know that say, “I’m going to college because I want to expand my mind, learn what I don’t know, become a better thinker, develop my intellectual capacities”?
How many follow in Dr. King’s vision? “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
I’m no welder, but I do often prefer the company of blue collar workers. They’re usually more humble. And people with money usually mix up being clever with being smart. (If they had read Aristotle, they would have known that even thieves are clever.) Many “professionals” bore the hell out of me. I’ll have a beer at a dive bar with a welder any day over a round of golf with a stuffy yuppie.
(I like the way stuffy yuppie sounded and I think it’s an assonance and only geeks like me would even care.)
And I can’t express the insight and wisdom I get from “uneducated” people. Especially my dad, who dropped out of high school. It doesn’t take a college degree to be smart. Consider Abraham Lincoln or Steve Jobs.
But if I had chosen welding instead of philosophy, I’d surely have better job security.
Before I consider going to church, I feel them. Jitters. Or, a kind of uneasiness. They are real. Somatic episodes. Low levels of anxiety. Reluctance.
The problem is me, not them. Not the other Christians. Not the preacher, who always seems to be yelling. Not his message, which often seems to be remarkably simplistic. (And why is it always a he?) And not the worship band, which always seems to be trying too hard).
There’s something about it all seeming fake. They all seem fake.
I’m sure they feel the same of me.
I don’t feel the jitters before traditional church (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox). Something about the ancient ritual, the calm, the thoughtfulness.
I only feel them before the seeker evangelical services.
I view the jitters as a deficiency in myself. So, I’ll ride this season out. I’ll get to the bottom of what’s wrong with me because I’m not blaming anyone else for how I feel.
I just can’t stop laughing at this. It’s funny because I really don’t understand the whole plastic surgery and botox thing. Just not my thing, you know what I mean? I make no judgments here — to each his and her own — but I try to keep it real here at Paulosophia.
I’m a product of Orange County, California. Born and raised. And I spend lots of time in the Newport Beach section, where The OC reality was turned into a very popular television series. And this cartoon just says it all, with a Halloween twist. (And when I used to travel internationally, extensively, people would ask where I was from. Before the show I would say, “I live in California…Orange County.” Nobody would know where it was and so I’d say, “by Disneyland.” Then they’d get it. Once she show was out, people would say, “Really?! You live in ‘The OC?'” Then they’d go on and ask if the show was an accurate representation and I’d, bashfully, confess that it was.)
Or, perhaps it’s funny because beautiful men and women, in my mind, are those with style and class and personality — but people that that can also accept the absurdities of life. They can handle the juxtaposition of the quest for beauty, against the inevitability of wrinkles and sagging and imperfection.
No halloween for millions of kids this year. Instead, a “Harvest Festival,” the Christian alternative.
Many parents think the Harvest Festival is better; the kids will prefer the cookies and punch and games.
I doubt it. The parents I’ve spoken with over the years think it’s better because is safer.
But it’s not. Trick or Treating is no more dangerous than playing on the playground where, according to a 2014 study by Children’s Safety Network, each year, over 200,000 kids visit the ER. Fifteen of them die.
Only once has a child died from eating poisoned Halloween candy. And it didn’t com from a stranger. It was planted by an 8-year-old boy’s father in 1974, in an attempt to get the child’s life insurance money. The convicted murderer, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, was executed in 1984 for the heinous act. There is a small chance the kids could get hit by a car. About 5 kids die each year in accidents related to Trick or Treating. But, again, if you’re going to keep your kids inside based on one-in-twenty-million odds, then no more bike riding, no skateboarding, and no more sports.
Some parents think, especially evangelical Christian ones, that the Harvest Festival is safer — safer from a spiritual standpoint.
I’m not convinced. I took all my kids Trick or Treating. Every year. Me and their mother. In our neighborhood. It was great family fun, partially because we all got to actually meet some of neighbors (oftentimes a rarity in Orange County, California). We did attend a few church “Harvest Festivals,” but never as a replacement from knocking on doors on October 31. Of course, there was never any candy laced with cyanid.
(Confession. Brainwashed by the notion that “trick or treat” had some mysteriously evil connotation, we taught ours to only say “treat or treat.” In other words, no tricks for the Martin kids. I felt so much safer, though most of the neighbors shot us all a strange “um, okay, whatever” look.)
I could never think of any rational reason for banning them from Halloween tradition I so enjoyed every year as a kid.
On the spiritual end of things, as far as I know, they devil didn’t win their respective souls because they all have retained their Anglican faith, and are pretty dang outstanding kids today.
As an aside, my boys have attended parochial school most of their lives. Catholic school. You know I like to observe the differences between Catholics and Protestants and another big difference is Halloween. Even the teachers dressed up as witches and warlocks and the school was draped in every kind of (evil) decor.
Not the case at the Protestant Christian schools where Halloween was banned.
For these parents that fear the evils of Halloween, their reasoning is based on a philosophical dualism — in this case, a matter of replacing the “secular” with the “sacred.” People who think this way have lots of black and whites in their lives. Dualisms make it easier to think about complex things — there are few gray areas when everything is black or white, evil or good. So replace halloween (secular) with a Harvest Festival (sacred).
One could attribute this mindset largely to a guy named Plotinus. Christian dualism was largely his third century idea. He blended Plato’s philosophy with Christian theology. Lots of black or white. Lots of either or or. Lots of good or bad. For Christians, a separation from “worldly things” versus “spiritual things.” Plato did the same thing hundreds year earlier.
Fast forward about 1,700 years and you have parents today giving their kiddos a Christian alternative for what “the world” has to offer them. Many parents do the same with music and other forms of entertainment (Christians music, Christian books, Christian T-shirts, etc.).
But I can’t help but wonder why — on what rational grounds — any parent would ban a child from the fun of halloween.