A look at the Geek Philosophy of Wholeness. Part 3 in our “What Is Geek Philosophy?” series.
After our last post on the principle of Slow Reading-Close Reading, we promised you a post on the Geek Philosophy principle of Wholeness. It turned out that it was easier to promise the post than produce it. Wholeness is a principle that, as you might have guessed, encompasses all our other principles. It is also the hardest to explain.
There are two kinds of wholes. One is the collection, like a basket full of stuff. It’s an artificial whole that someone put together. If you want to really know what is in the basket, you have to take the collection apart and examine each piece. The other kind of whole is an organic whole or unity, a whole that just came that way, like a tree or a person. You can try to understand a tree or person by examining their parts but you won’t really understand them unless you see them as the wholes they are.
Examining the principles of Geek Philosophy. This time, Slow Reading-Close Reading.
As part of our ongoing series on the practice of Geek Philosophy, we are taking a look at our principle of Slow Reading-Close Reading.
Geek Philosophy is inspired in part by the thinking of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He believed that it is possible to get to know the world like you know a friend, through the development of intimacy over time. Let’s say that I have a friend named Luna. When Luna does something particularly characteristic of her unique self, I might say, “That’s SO Luna.” This suggests that, because I know Luna well, I can communicate a lot about who she is by pointing to one particularly telling moment in her life. Goethe called this the pregnant or poignant instance.
Goethe believed that we could find poignant instances in the lives of plants, animals, rivers, and rocks in the same way we can find them in the lives of people. Geek Philosophy strives to find these instances in stories. We then take time and care in looking at them so that they reveal their wisdom to us. A poignant instance in the life of a flower reveals something profound about the nature of flowers. A poignant instance in the life of a friend or a story reveals something profound about what it means to be human.
This is why we discuss stories slowly over time–one or two chapters, scenes, or episodes per discussion–and read them closely–looking carefully at words, lines, and passages without divorcing them from their context. We believe that every part of a story has its own poignancy but here is a tip for Geek Philosophy facilitators and participants who are trying to decide which parts of a story they feel the most moved to discuss: Imagine that you are an illustrator and you must choose only one moment in the chapter, episode, or film to illustrate. Which would you choose? How would you frame it? Why? Would you choose another moment for the book cover or movie poster? What and why? Does the moment delight you, unsettle you, or produce an even more complicated effect?
We encourage everyone to try this exercise on their own but it is even more rewarding when it takes place in community. Visit our Community menu to find the Geek Philosophy discussions that are right for you.
The principles of Geek Philosophy do not operate in isolation from each other. Next time, we will discuss the principle of Wholeness, something that is intimately connected to Slow Reading-Close Reading. We hope that your life is filled with deep thoughts and geeky joys. See you soon!
Learn more about our unique Geek Philosophy method!
Geek Philosophy is our name for the holistic, Socratic method that our trained facilitators use to guide all of our book discussions. This series of short posts will present the ideas and techniques of Geek Philosophy, including how our discussions can help us to live thoughtful, examined lives. For an overview of the technique, take a look at this post on the blog for our young adult chapter, Grey Havens YA.
The first rule of Geek Philosophy is this:
Statements are propositions. Propositions are questions. Questions are more important to us than answers.
All of the discussions hosted by Grey Havens Group take the form of dialogues. “Dialogue” literally means through (dia) talking (logue). Our goal is for each participant to arrive at something new–an understanding or perspective–through talking but we have no wish to dictate the form that something will take. Through talking and listening in community, everyone gets something out of our discussions that is for them alone.
Geek Philosophy is not didactic. The role of the facilitator is to suspend personal judgement in order to make room for questions. Facilitators participate in the discussion along with everyone else but do their best to identify when they are stating an opinion and give everyone equal authority to do the same. We believe that it is not possible to instruct people in creative and critical thinking but we can model and encourage these kinds of thinking.
We believe that everyone has a philosophy of life, even if they are not always able to articulate it. This philosophy can shine through the statements we make in response to literature and popular culture. By reading these statements as propositions then helping each other to turn those propositions into questions, we reveal how much richness there is to explore in our own minds and hearts. It also encourages flexibility, rather than rigidity, in thinking. A willingness to question our assumptions and beliefs and even change them allows us to spend our lives creating a bigger, more nuanced picture of the universe.
Here is a broad example of teasing the inherent questions out of a statement. This one will be particularly familiar to Star Trek fans.
Statement/Proposition: Vulcans are logical.
Questions: Are Vulcans logical? Are all Vulcans logical all the time? How do they achieve logic? Why do they value it? What is the evidence from the text?
What does it mean to be logical? What is logic? How does logic work? How does it compare to/work with emotions, aesthetic sense, intuition, etc? What does it mean to be reasonable/ rational? What would the world be like if we were all always logical? Is it possible to be completely logical all the time?
You can see that just one aspect of a story can generate many questions and hours of discussion. It is okay and even desirable if some of these questions seem unanswerable. It is not the job of the Geek Philosophy facilitator to teach participants what to think, but to join with them in the process of thinking. That process is never-ending and full of endless rewards!
In our next post, we will examine why we take our time with the texts we discuss. Live long and prosper. #BoldlyThink.