What is Geek Philosophy? Part #5 Geekiness

Our series of posts on the principles of Geek Philosophy continues with an important, though often overlooked principle that comes right from the name: Geekiness. Why do we call it Geek Philosophy?


First, a disclaimer: Here at Grey Havens, we use the terms geek and nerd interchangeably. We’re not as concerned about the distinctions between the terms as we are about how being geeky and nerdy influences our lives.

eustaceIn our young adult chapter, Grey Havens YA, there’s a particular sentence we say at the beginning and end of every meeting. We call it a slogo. It’s a paraphrase of a quote from Wil Wheaton: “Being a nerd is not about what you love, it’s about how you love it!” We do this because we are excited about being nerds, and we want to create a culture of enthusiasm and inclusiveness. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen every episode of Doctor Who, or if you only like the Harry Potter books and not the movies, or if you agree on whether or not Han shot first– we all arrive at the table on equal footing. We acknowledge each other’s geekiness (or nerdiness) and encourage each other to share what we love and think philosophically about it. We don’t judge or try to one-up each other; there is no “Geek Cred” or “Nerd Card,” because it’s not about what you love, it’s about how you love it.

In a Geek Philosophy discussion, this idea helps us to stay whole-heartedly committed to the notion that nothing is trivial. We make no distinction between low and high art. In the midst of talking about a novel, a participant may be reminded of a web-comic or a YouTube video, and we welcome this interruption. Geek Philosophy can be full of tangents, and sometimes you just have to be open to twisting vines of nerdy thoughts and allow the strange new ideas to bloom.

To us, Shakespeare is on the same cultural level as Harry Potter; J.R.R. Tolkien is no less than Sir Thomas Mallory; George Lucas no less than H.G. Wells. A discussion about Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles can lead us into a breakdown of Baudrillard’s Signs and Simulacra, which then morphs into a discussion about Doctor Who, robots, and even the mobile game, Pokemon GO. It’s like the concentric circles we talked about in our Wholeness post, nothing is trivial and everything connects. Philosophy is for everyone, and we can find that base for philosophical discourse in all forms of texts – literature, film, television shows; the classics and the post-modern; the scholarly reads and the guilty-pleasures.

how-do-you-nerd

Popular Culture helps us make sense of our world, even if we don’t quite realize it. Everyone engages in some way with popular culture. It gives many of us a significant part of the language with which we understand and speak about our world. (How many of you would know what I meant if I said that someone can be as logical as a Vulcan but as passionate as Anakin Skywalker?) It is the job of a Geek Philosophy facilitator to help us to better engage with the texts we love so much by allowing us to discover why we feel such a connection in the first place. What is it about a war in a galaxy far far away that pierces our hearts? Why do we feel the need to cuddle with our pets after we watch a wizard care for magical creatures? What could a time-traveling alien teach us about being human in the 21st century?

This is why it’s great to be a geek, and why we’ve built our whole facilitation technique around it.star-trek-laughs

We hope that you will join us in sharing your geekiness in community and taking what you love seriously. Visit our Community menu, check out our Philosophy in Public Spaces calendar, and follow us on Facebook to find the Geek Philosophy discussions that are right for you. May the Force be with you!

What Is Geek Philosophy? Part 1: The First Rule

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!

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In our next post, we will examine why we take our time with the texts we discuss. Live long and prosper. #BoldlyThink. 

 

 

Deep Thoughts on the Big Screen: 5 Philosophical Movies

truman show gif

For the last two months, I have been facilitating a weekly discussion in pop culture and philosophy at the Longmont Senior Center. For the first half of the two-hour session, we watch clips from movies and TV shows, taking in poignant examples of the day’s topic. We might be talking about the nature of love or beauty, about epistemology or ethics. In two months, we have watched well over 100 clips, everything from Casablanca to Doctor Who.

Star Trek‘s Commander Data has been particularly helpful in prompting discussion of the human condition. Luke Skywalker and Yoda helped us to talk about free will and determinism. Scenes like this one from Witness, directed by Peter Weir, helped us to examine the good and bad in community. We have created our own community, a community of inquiry. At the Grey Havens Group, we do the same thing at our discussion group meetings.

We call these sessions Geek Philosophy. We held our first discussion at one of our monthly Inklingsiana meetings. Last spring, we hosted a multi-generational Geek Philosophy session at our Real Myth Symposium. We watched clips from science fiction-fantasy movies and TV shows then had what turned out to be an extremely heartening discussion about personal mortality and the mortality of our species. This month, we discussed the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Masks.” Next month, on November 12, we will be hosting a Star Wars and philosophy discussion so that we are prepared to fully appreciate The Force Awakens in December.

Tolkien believed that experiencing the ordinary in the extraordinary context of what he called a Fairy-story can cause us to shake free from the grip of “appropriation,” the tendency to see things as trite or insignificant just because we have gotten used to them. This is what Geek Philosophy is all about so, in the spirit of our community of inquiry, here is a list of my Top Five Philosophical Movies. These are the films that, at least for a while, helped me to see that there is no such thing as the ordinary.

Badgaladriel’s Top Five Philosophical Movies

(Beware of spoilers when clicking on links.)

  1. Groundhog Day, written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, directed by Harold Ramis (1993), “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”
  2. The Truman Show, written by Andrew Niccol, directed by Peter Weir (1998), “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.”
  3. Blade Runner, written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peeples, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, directed by Ridley Scott (1982), “It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?”
  4. Never Let Me Go, written by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, directed by Mark Romanek (2010), “You have to know who you are, and what you are. It’s the only way to lead decent lives.”
  5. Pleasantville, written and directed by Gary Ross (1998), “No, David. Nobody’s happy in a poodle skirt and a sweater set.”

What movies would make your list? What TV episodes have gotten you thinking over the years?

We hope you will join us for our next discussion. What might be the most exciting Geek Philosophy session is coming to you this winter! “Mythos and Logos: A Multi-Generational Philosophy Panel” will feature members of our young adult group, Grey Havens YA, in profound conversation with the senior adults of the Longmont Senior Center, January 20 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.. The topic will be “personal identity.” How do we see ourselves at seventeen or at seventy? What can we learn from each other and from the stories we love? For more information or to register, call 303-651-8411.