Friday, April 17, 2009

An Examined Life

I posted not too long ago about that new show College Life, which seemed very true to my actual college experience. Writing about that experience made me remember how at odds it all was with my expectations.When I first envisioned college life, I saw myself sitting on the quad all day quoting philosophers and theorists, discovering my nature and the nature of others. Basically, I thought I would actually be learning. I imagined dead poet society. The reality was more like animal house.

However, I did take a few sociology classes that made me think, and question, and examine many realities that I had come to except. I think the difference between those classes and the rest was the professors.

Every once in awhile you come into contact with a person that truly examine their lives, and the world around them. You know it when you hear them speak, their words leave you in awe. Some people just have an impact. It's human nature to want to be stimulated and challenged. We all just need a spark.

Even though such thinkers aren't as valued now as they were back in days of Plato and Socrates, somehow we still cling to the notion of philosphers. The never-ending lecture, the intellectualizing of the everyday, the examination of higher order questions seem strange things to hold onto in the age of twitter. And yet, we do hold on.

The TED talks are a perfect example. Here are these videos that despite often being humurous are in fact very serious, and long-winded and complicated and yet many of them have as many hits as every other cat talking video on youtube. People still have a thirst to learn and examine things even if it requires more of them. There is still a place for thinkers.

I just came upon an an interview from a couple months back with the director of Examined Life on n+1 where she discussed her motivation for taking philosphy to the streets and interviewing some of the great minds of our times.

Here's a little excerpt:

n+1: In some of the early reviews of Examined Life there was this idea that people were resistant to films about ideas and had to be told your movie overcomes that. Yet it seems like that was unnecessary, something has changed in our culture and now people don't need that prod. Examined Life embodies that change.

Astra Taylor: There was a lot of theory bashing during the culture wars. The culmination of that anti-intellectualism came after 9/11, when there was this feeling that after this crisis you were supposed to close your mind down and not question things, to live in a state of perpetual fear so you couldn't think. That was pretty silly and it's starting to get reversed.

I do think as a society we are returning to examining things. Yes people are tweeting from their toilets, yes half of our television consists of complete trash, but I also feel like theres constantly something brewing these days. Perhaps it's because we have to rexamine things now. Maybe it's because our financial security has been shaken up a bit with the recession. Or perhaps its a new president that likes to have a good think himself. But I feel like more people are reading, more people are discussing things, more people want to learn again. And the internet instead of becoming a foil to thinking( which in many ways it can be) is slowly becoming a tool for collobarations for social causes, and cultural movements, and legitimate discussons.

I'm hoping this is not just a passing trend.

1 comment:

  1. I can't imagine walking through life and not being aware of my surroundings

    A walking, nonsentient, uninquisitive body. Ew.

    Almost all fun in this world comes from interrogating the world in an interesting way and seeing what results.