My name is Richard Brautigan. I am twenty-one years old.
I am an unknown poet.
That does not mean I do not have any friends.
It means mostly my friends know I’m a poet
because I have told them so.
Let us pretend that my mind is a taxi
and suddenly (“What the hell’s coming off !”)
you are riding in it.
There was a certain young man (a high school lad) who was about to go on his first date.
When his best friend learned of this, he felt (because he had more experience) that he should offer his friend some counsel.
So he explained to him – “Look, when you have your date, don’t think that you can just talk about anything. Do not try to talk about politics or religion. Talk about food … or family … or philosophy.
So – the big day comes. And when the young man is with his date (and the time has come for some conversation) he recalls his friend’s counsel … and says to the girl – “Do you like applesauce?”
She says … “No.”
Then he says to her, “Do you have a sister?”
And she says, “No.”
Then he says, “Well, if you had a sister, would she like applesauce?”
And what is the butt of this joke? It’s PHILOSOPHY itself!
Now, I want you to know – that I did not make this joke up!
It had been repeated … from one person to another … many times before someone told it to me! This means that lots of people think it’s funny. (I think it’s funny, or I wouldn’t be telling it to you.)
That this joke has made the rounds … means – that this is what our society thinks of philosophy: (“If you had a sister, would she like applesauce?”)
The people of this culture … think that philosophy is a joke.
(and [personally] I can feel this realization push me [a little further] into invisibility)
But really – I am not writing this essay to whine. It is not intended as an appeal for sympathy. It is offered (as usual) as a small beam of light … as from a flashlight.
If you have ever had to pitch camp (in the wilderness and) in the dark, with perhaps only a flashlight for illumination … you well know – that ‘broad’ daylight is much preferable.
I reckon that our (common) efforts to figure out how to survive … (how to survive our own collective folly) – is rather like trying to set up camp in the dark.
Any light is welcome.
Allow me to offer a rather unusual definition for philosophy.
At ‘the center’ is the experiencing self.
“Out there” … is ‘the world’.
We are connected to ‘the world’ by our perceptions (of the world) and our ideas of it.
But we are not in direct contact with it … [as it seems to us that we are. This is an illusion.]
(Refer to my blog of 13 Jan. 2018 … in particular, to my “Talk 1”, mentioned there.)
Anyway, the entire ‘zone’ between us and reality … this is the realm of philosophy.
[For context / contrast … where we draw the boundary lines between word meanings … this is the realm of semantics.
How we feel about this event … or that part of the world … this is the realm of emotions.]
Let me offer an example – [of a philosophical issue] :
If you are driving your car somewhere … and it breaks down …
chances are about 80% – (assuming you have with you: a crescent wrench, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, some bailing wire, and some duct tape) … that you will be able to fix your car (enough to be able) to drive away from the situation … if you can figure out what you need to do.
The situation you face is fundamentally a philosophical problem.
There are two cars. One is the car you drove there in (and in which you hope to be able to drive away in) … the other one is the car in your head … your thought car.
You need to make your head car resemble the real car … enough … so you can fix the real one.
If you can adequately understand how your car works … and what’s wrong with it … the chances are quite good – that you’ll be able to fix it and drive away.
[if you’ve thrown a rod … and a connecting rod has poked a hole in your engine block … you’re probably not going to be able to drive away, but] there are lots of things that can cause a breakdown, which you can fix … if you can figure out what needs to be done.
This is philosophy.
Our situation now – with our (multiple) planetary crises is quite similar.
There is no doubt that our very survival hangs in the balance.
There is (also) no doubt … that WE are the problem.
(as Pogo possum says – “We have met the enemy … and he is us.”)
If we keep on as we are … we’re done … I have no doubt.
We must figure out how to do better … and do it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlfqsL3hTK0 (trailer to my ‘Talk 1’)