Five minutes into the conversation and I was already regretting saying anything in the first place.
I’d made the mistake of telling a lady I’d just met that I was a political science major in college. Apparently she was one of those types who liked to discuss politics.
And when I say “discuss”, I mean someone preaches at you for the next thirty-three minutes.
There really are perks to being a wallflower.
Listen: I don’t mind discussing politics. I like to, actually. That’s kind of the reason why I majored in political science. I wanted to know how government works. To be formally educated on the form and function of our representative republic.
Unfortunately, the only lesson I can say that I’ve had so far, is that when you meet anyone wants to discuss politics one needs to tread lightly. I now realize that there’s a difference between an exchange of political ideas and a full-scale inquisition of all of my political opinions.
That’s what I’d been experiencing for a full five minutes.
A full-on Spanish-style inquisition.
She demanded to know my opinion on Syria. Afghanistan. Edward Snowden.
Voter ID laws, abortion, 9/11 Truth, Obamacare, and Ted Cruz.
The corporate media. Fox News. And gun control.
Illegal NSA surveillance. Same-sex marriage. Drones. The Zimmerman verdict. Wikileaks and Bradley Manning.
What I thought about the Tea Party, Rand Paul, and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Hillary Clinton hasn’t even announced her candidacy yet.
Getting waterboarded had to be easier than this conversation.
Five minutes into a lecture about dissolving the Federal Reserve, and all I could think of was how much this didactically-oriented (and annoying) lady looked like a young Walter Becker.
I felt the urge to sing “Reeling In the Years”.
Sometimes I want to discuss politics, but I don’t want to discuss politics.
I definitely don’t want any conversation to feel like I’m being interrogated at Gitmo.
Sometimes I really don’t feel like discussing anything politically important.
I’d rather talk about Justin Bieber’s retirement, Miley Cyrus’ latest media-grabbing antics or if Kim K really plucked her infant daughter’s eyebrows.
Sometimes I don’t feel like thinking about anything philosophically significant.
Sometimes I really don’t feel like dealing with reality.
Sometimes I want to hold on to my Panglossian view of the world. But my view keeps getting interrupted by current events. Reality can be annoying like that.
It’s hard to face reality every morning when this kind of headline is the first thing you see on the internet:
Looking at the headline I can conclude one of two things: I’ve been totally irradiated by fallout from Fukushima or Armageddon is going to start soon.
I’m pretty sure that both involve Godzilla rising up from the Pacific Ocean.
That’s just the start of the horribleness. If you think about it, there’s plenty of things going on in the real world that makes you not want to face the real world.
That can be difficult if you’ve assumed the life of a philosopher. Philosophy is supposed to be about thinking about reality and stuff. There’s a whole field of philosophy devoted to doing just that.
It’s called metaphysics.
But really, there are times that thinking about truth and what’s real and all that is just plain exhausting. I’d much rather think about the discontinuities in the Star Wars movies, comic books, and TV shows. I’d rather write The Walking Dead fanfic about romantic liaisons between Rick Grimes and his former friend and partner, Shane Walsh.
I so prefer an unreality reality that I’m totally obsessed with Don Draper but I have almost no interest at all in Jon Hamm.
I prefer this:
I’m way past elementary school but I still enjoy daydreaming.
Sometimes I would prefer to spend my day floating inside Robert Nozick’s experience machine than deal with what’s actually going on.
I mean, I know reality is a “big deal” and the point of Nozick’s thought experiment was to point out exactly why we shouldn’t want to spend our time in an artificial reality. But really, how much reality do we have to deal with?
Is it ever ok to just tune out? Ever?
The real world is often much too bothersome to deal with.
There aren’t enough philosophers to deal with the overwhelming dumbness.
It’s scary sometimes.
And besides, Kant says we’ll never truly know ding an sich, anyway.
Ok, I know. The answer is no. As a philosopher and as a human being, I should want to be intellectually, emotionally, and philosophically engaged with the world. The philosopher Robert Nozick (1938-2002) said that we should prefer real world experiences because our lives are made richer by the experience of actual (as opposed to electronically simulated) living. And to examine one’s life, as Socrates suggests, requires that one face all aspects of life, both pleasant and unpleasant.
I understand that the purpose of Nozick’s experience machine is to convince us that we should not want to escape reality. That’s not what I’m suggesting. Completely escaping reality is not what I had in mind. Reality sometimes is a fun thing. There’s Disneyland, the smell of Tide detergent on freshly-washed sheets, hot chicken pot pies, getting kicked in the face in the pit at a Pantera concert. All of these things should be experienced first hand. And really, if escape is the plan, there are easier ways to do that. I could drop acid every waking moment of my life.
And those moments would look like THIS:
My question is that as a philosopher, am I required to pay attention to everything. Would I (or anyone else) be neglecting my (our) philosophical duty if I (we) decided that there are some subjects that I’m (we’re) not going to think about? If I do does it make me a bad person? Am I wrong if I decide to think about these fictional people:
Instead of this guy:
Which reminds me. The new season of Downton Abbey is on.
(Although my tone is somewhat light-hearted, this was and continues to be a real dilemma for me. I think others may understand when I say that thinking about too many things often leads to a philosophical fatigue or intellectual malaise, where one may be tempted to not think or care about anything beyond trivial matters. I think the origin of my dilemma resides in the fact that a lack of knowledge or interest in worldly matters is a sign of malignant narcissism or stupidity. I insist that in my case that neither is so. I had mistakenly operated under the impression that either my attention has to focus on “important” issues or on the trivial, and had neglected to consider the possibility that one can do both. I found this quote by Nietzsche useful: “To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both – a philosopher.”)
The Portable Nietzsche. 1982 . Ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann. NY: Viking Penguin Inc. p 467.