Why We Re-read

In An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis wrote that anyone who loves to read must also love to re-read. He also gave a definition of myth that included the fact that the outcome of a myth feels inevitable. Pleasure in reading it does not depend on suspense. It carries the weight of the self-evident. It breathes extra life into truths that would not feel as vital if expressed as axioms.

In “Story of Your Life,” the story on which the film Arrival was based, Ted Chiang depicts a mother who is also a linguist reading “The Three Bears” to her young daughter. The mother asks why her daughter wants her to read the story exactly as written if the daughter already knows the ending. “Because I want to hear it” is the answer.

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Later this same mother and linguist explains that some statements, such as “You’re under arrest,””I christen this vessel,” or “I promise” are performative, “a speaker could perform the action only by saying the words. For such acts, knowing what would be said didn’t change anything.” Myth, stories, and rituals like collective re-reading and discussion can be performative in the sense that the truth embedded in the stories does not change but we do. What changes is how deeply the truth penetrates our awareness and how we understand it, especially when we read and discuss stories in community. How we are able to live the truth might also change. Sometimes, an idea just pierces your personal fog like a beam of bright light. Other times, it doesn’t.

Our philosophy discussions, whether they take place as part of our Philosophy in Public Spaces Initiative or our teen group Grey Havens YA, always begin with a story. In some cases, most or all of us are discussing a story that is new to us but often, as in our Harry Potter and Middle-earth discussions, most of us know the story very well. Does that mean that we should stop reading them and talking about them?

We don’t stop telling family stories or the origin stories of traditions because we know how those stories end. We don’t stop because they never really end. When we read and discuss familiar stories together we can have our breath taken away by a line we never really noticed before, we can have the truth of the story reawakened in us, and we can dive deeper into that truth by discovering what rings true to others and how what we rings true to us holds up under the light of collective experience and reason.

We hope you will join us to explore philosophical ideas through the celebration of all kinds of stories. Keep an eye on our Philosophy in Public Spaces and Community pages or just like us on Facebook.

Because I Want to Hear It

 

 

 

So Many Questions!

The wise are not afraid to ask questions. Here are some of the questions that were raised at our January Think & Drink.

On Wednesday, January 18, Grey Havens Group held its first Think & Drink event at Wibby Brewing in Longmont, Colorado as part of our Philosophy in Public Spaces Initiative. Wibby Brewing is a hopping place (pun intended). On this evening, the small, dog-friendly brewery was packed with canines and their human companions. There was even a shuffleboard league competing inches away from our tables but the conversations that took place in our small discussion groups were thoughtful and deep. Philosophy can happen anywhere!

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Thinking in progress!

This is how our philosophy discussions work: We begin with a theme and a text (or texts) related to that theme, whether the text is from a novel, a movie, TV show, or a work of visual art such as a photograph, painting, or sculpture. This time, our theme was “Decisions, Resolutions, Change,” and we shared readings from The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring and from the British sci-fi serial Doctor Who. We then asked our gathered thinkers to write down questions that came up for them in response to the texts, focusing on what they consider to be the “big questions.” Here are some of the questions they shared:

  • Is choice (or free will) an illusion?
  • Are there any decisions that we make that affect no one but ourselves or do all our decisions affect others?
  • To decide is to cut off options. Is this always true?
  • What decisions would you make differently after seeing the results of your choices?
  • Who will I meet on the road ahead?
  • Am I brave or foolish?
  • Do we all have something “Tookish” inside us? (“Tookish” is an adjective from The Hobbit that suggests unconventionality and a sense of adventure.)
  • Can you think out all the ripples [that come from a decision] or should you just get on with it?
  • At what point do we battle with ourselves and hesitate in our quest to move forward?
  • What causes fear and doubt? What instills trust?
  • Is it courage if there is really no other choice?

We will discuss these questions and others again and again because we believe that we should never stop questioning. You can join in by attending our February Think & Drink at The Dickens Tavern in Longmont. This time, we will gather in a quiet room to sip our drinks and think together. The format will be a large group discussion. Different formats, different places, different faces, different topics, one big idea—philosophy is for everyone!

Contact us if you are interested in bringing philosophical inquiry to your organization or community group along the Front Range. Follow our Facebook page for more philosophical events. We look forward to thinking with you!